• Reappointed manager plays down likelihood of major change
• Ancelotti says he had ‘zero doubt’ about returning to club
When the sixth question was asked at his presentation and another familiar journalist’s face appeared on the screen in front of him, Carlo Ancelotti shot back: “No one has changed in these five years. The only thing that changes at Real Madrid are the coaches.”
Actually, it is six years and they don’t so much change as change back, but the point remained and was as smoothly delivered as ever. Since May 2015, Madrid have had seven managers. Two of them are Zinedine Zidane and now two of them are Ancelotti.
Six years ago Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, said he did not know why he was getting rid of Ancelotti; they are getting him in again because they had an emergency and they want him to do what he did back then, which was to win the Champions League.
The Italian’s return was heavy on the past but light on plans. It had all happened too fast for that, he said, and if there was a recurring theme from the first day of his second spell it was not to expect major changes, still less huge signings. He will work with those already in the squad.
That includes Gareth Bale, whose loan at Tottenham has ended and who Ancelotti said could have a “great season”. It also includes Eden Hazard, who the new-old manager claimed could experience “just the year to bring the best out of him”.
He was less committal when it came to the future of the club captain, Sergio Ramos, whose contract has 28 days left, saying: “I’m happy to work with this squad and Ramos is one of them, but we’ve not had time to talk about this.” He also sidestepped talk of a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Asked what he could promise, Ancelotti said: “The same [as last time].” Back then he had vowed to bring “spectacular football”; now he said “football has changed in the five years: it is more intense, more aggressive, more organised, even some rules have changed. But the idea is always the same for Real Madrid: attacking, spectacular football because that is what the history of this club demands and the fans want.”
How he will achieve that is a different matter. The young players Ancelotti mentioned having given a first-team chance – Nacho Fernández, Casemiro, Dani Carvajal – are senior pros now, others are nearing the end and some have gone. His arrival brings comfort; whether it will bring the change some demand is a different question.
“I’ve only just arrived. I have to talk to the club about all that in the next few days,” Ancelotti said. “It’s happened fast. We first spoke only on Saturday. There is no plan yet. I know the squad well, and the players coming back from loan, so we have lots of options. I want to evaluate it all calmly. We will look in the next few days.”
Asked whether Real Madrid need a superstar, Kylian Mbappé’s name being the one dropped into the question, Ancelotti laughed. “Quality players give you more of a chance to win titles,” he said, before insisting instead on “balance, sacrifice, playing together”. He also talked about getting more goals out of players already there. “The objective is to score goals but that’s not just [about] signing someone who scores 30; it’s looking for goals from wingers, midfielders. It’s putting in place a system and mentality that’s attacking.”
Two men who could contribute are Hazard and Bale. “He has not played much in England,” Ancelotti said of Bale, “but he scored a lot of goals, he was very effective, especially in the final games when he played more regularly. I know Gareth well and if he has the motivation to try to play his best game he can have a great season, I have no doubt. Hazard is a top player. He had problems with injury and still hasn’t brought out the potential he has, but he will because he has the desire to do that.”
Nor has Ancelotti yet spoken to Zidane, who had departed with an open letter denouncing the way the club are run. Perhaps because he does not need to; the Italian knows and accepts that. “I have been in football almost 40 years and people speak – it’s normal,” he said.
“We have to accept that and have respect for everyone: players, coaches and journalists. I don’t know what Zidane’s relationship was with the president so it’s hard for me to say. But when Real Madrid called, I didn’t have any doubt. Zero.”
*Courtesy: The Guardian