When Carlo Ancelotti entered the fray as Real Madrid's head coach last season, it was clear that there was one objective in mind: to win the 10th Champions League title that had so often eluded his Galaticos. Now, 12 months later, Ancelotti can still boast of a side which, arguably, is stronger than that of last season. But all may not be as rosy as it seems.
Indeed, part of last season's success story came down to the enviable fact that Ancelotti had inherited—and improved upon for that matter—a Madrid side that had strength in depth.
So much so that the departures of Mesut Ozil (to Arsenal to £42.5m as per The Guardian) and Gonzalo Higuain (to Napoli as per BBC Sport)—two of the club's most integral players who had played crucial roles under Jose Mourinho—were quickly forgotten.
Up stepped Angel Di Maria who showed why he is one of the world's most underrated attackers. A winger by trade, the arrival of Gareth Bale for a world-record of €100m (per The Guardian) seemed to have forced the Argentine to make do with a spot on the bench.
In a twist of fortune, however, Di Maria became arguably the side's most important player.
As Isco struggled with Ancelotti's style of play, the 26-year-old exhibited versatility which saw him coolly slot in as a central midfielder.
Furthermore, the Italian mastermind was able to rely heavily on the firm foundations laid down by his predecessor.
When asked about the legacy of his predecessor, Ancelotti commented, via The Daily Mail:
You should realise there are a lot of people who loved Jose here in Madrid. He made two groups. One with him and one against him. But a lot of people liked him. He won a league title with 100 points and more than 100 goals, in his second year here.
Although Ancelotti initially attempted to replicate the possession-based attacking style which had previously seen him succeed at Paris Saint Germain and AC Milan, he quickly converted back to counter-attacking football.
It allowed the front three attackers—Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo—to utilise their speed in order to catch opposing defences off-guard, a move which worked to devastating effect.
What transpired afterwards was glory—after 12 years of soul searching and millions spent on acquiring the greatest players on the planet, Real Madrid lifted the Champions League title. In addition, the side lifted the Copa Del Rey, a match in which Gareth Bale epitomised the side’s counter-attacking prowess.
Florentino Perez’s project, however is far from over.
The summer signings of James Rodriguez, Colombia's World Cup star, for a reported £63m (per The Guardian), in conjunction with the acquisitions of World Cup winner Toni Kroos (BBC Sport) and Keylor Navas (The Daily Mail) inevitably sees the Santiago Bernabeu outfit branded as unprecedented favourites to win not only their first La Liga title since 2011/12,but also back-to-back Champions League crowns.
However, managing a squad filled with so many egos is never an easy task. And although Ancelotti is often recognised as one of the best at man-management, attempting to make Ronaldo, Bale, Rodriguez and Co. content throughout the season will prove to be a defining factor.
And the 55-year-old must be careful not to make the same mistakes that led to Mourinho's downfall.
As last season showed, keeping a balanced squad is necessary, and tactically, Ancelotti must find a way in which he can not only incorporate all of his star players but also get the best out of each and every one of them.
Initially, the former PSG manager employed a 4-2-3-1 formation, which eventually morphed into a 4-3-3 in attack and 4-4-2 in defence. While it remains to be seen how Madrid will line up for the season ahead, one thing is certain: Using all the resources available will be imperative to the club's ongoing success.
And then there are the petty politics which seemingly never fail to rear their ugly head. The departure of Diego Lopez to AC Milan (via BBC Sport) perhaps epitomises the political divisions of the club.
The constant boardroom battles with regards to player favouritism amongst other matters only further tarnishes the image of the club.
When asked on Real Madrid’s constant boardroom battles, Mourinho remarked (via ESPN):
I know Madrid is a special club. Madrid is not just a club. Madrid is politics. Madrid is not about football, Madrid is not about sport, is about many things around.
While on paper, it seems that Real Madrid's summer transfer will only serve to benefit the club's pursuit of glory, having such a star-studded squad has its own problems.
With the underlying theme of hot-headed egos prevailing in the dressing room often tarnishing the reputation of the club, Ancelotti must proactively prevent such problems from arising.
Failure to do so could result in a disastrous season; however, a proactive approach could see Ancelotti's men dominate headlines yet again.