Skip to content

After raw deal at Chelsea, Ancelotti’s 5th Champions League is redemption years in the making

May 25, 2014, 8:02 AM EDT

AncelottiCup AP

By the fifth time, even winning the European Cup can get to be a little routine.

That’s what Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti did yesterday by defeating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final yesterday, cementing himself at the very top of not just managerial history, but soccer history altogether.

However, it seemed that in the waning hours of Madrid’s victory night, as the dust settled on his third Champions League title as a manager, this could be Ancelotti’s most important of them all.

The 54-year-old Italian won two European Cup titles as a player, captaining a legendary AC Milan team in the late 1980’s that destroyed the competition.  He’s used to domination.

So once he left his comfort zone after managing AC Milan to two more titles, it was clear he was headed for greatness. But even Ancelotti isn’t immune to bumps in the road.

Roman Abramovich hired Ancelotti in 2009 still trying to replace the gaping hole he had created after his falling out with Jose Mourinho, a void that Avram Grant, Luis Felipe Scolari, and Guus Hiddink all failed trying to plug.

But Ancelotti was the man for the job, leading Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2010 in his first season on the job, becoming the first Italian manager to win the Premier League and proving he wasn’t just a one-team band.

Winning outside a comfort zone is a difficult thing to do, and after a total of 13 years at AC Milan, he proved his worth at not just another club but another league altogether, the mark of a man at the top of his profession.

He won the FA Cup as well, making him only the second-ever non-British manager alongside Arsene Wenger to lead an English team to the domestic double.

The next year Chelsea struggled somewhat, falling to fifth place after a poor run of form. He engineered a remarkable turnaround, as Chelsea finished second in the Premier League, but once again Abramovich couldn’t help himself.

source: AP

Ancelotti’s ability to adjust to Atletico’s neutralization of Cristiano Ronaldo is a token of his genius.

The Russian hammer came down again, and Ancelotti was left out in the cold, brutally sacked for the second time in his managerial career.

It harkened back to his short time at the helm of Juventus, when word of his firing came down at halftime of their final Serie A game of the year while he still had an outside shot at winning the title.

But the Italian, just like his club last night, didn’t wallow in his misery, but immediately began laying the groundwork for building himself back up.

“Sometimes I make mistakes,” Ancelotti admitted following last night’s game. “The team bounced back and we have been able to do what we set out to do at the start of the season.  This feels like something even bigger than winning the World Cup.”

After last night’s managerial masterpiece, one must sit and wonder if Chelsea, who haven’t exactly done poorly since he left, would be sitting atop the European landscape had he remained.

Instead, Real Madrid are instead the ones benefiting from his genius, as he struck oil thrice with his substitutions.  The true stroke of brilliance came on his first two, bringing on Isco and Marcelo for the ineffective pair of Fabio Coentrao and Sami Khedira.  The double change came with a half-hour yet to play, and against a team that had neutralized so many of Real’s threats all season long, they had time to settle in.

Marcelo was brilliant down the left, key because Cristiano Ronaldo had been silenced. Isco brought instant life to the midfield in an area where Khedira had become a black hole. The German holding midfielder looked uncomfortable going forward, completing a horrid 68% of his passes, giving away nearly half of the 28 he attempted. His replacement, in half the time, connected on 43 of his 48 pass attempts and created two chances.

His third substitution of Alviro Morata for Karim Benzema was less hailed, as Morata didn’t exactly have an obvious impact on the game, but the physicality he brought was an unheralded addition.  At a time in the game when Atletico’s legs looked ready to fall off, Morata committed five fouls in his short time on the pitch, creating space for his brethren on the ball.

But Ancelotti’s most genius move of all came in the form of a player he didn’t substitute. Having been chopped down by analysts for his atrocious finishing, Gareth Bale had actually been one of Real’s best players aside from in front of goal. He was slicing up defenders both on the ball and off it, and it was only a matter of time before the world’s most expensive player found the back of the net.

Ancelotti’s refusal to remove Bale in a match where Atletico focused much of their energy on their hack-a-Ronaldo strategy paid off tenfold.  While he flubbed three brilliant chances in regulation, it took extra time before a bit of luck plopped him in the perfect position to finish Di Maria’s deflected shot.

Real Madrid have themselves a gem at the helm.  His calm demeanor and ability to adjust to any given situation was evident during his time quarterbacking AC Milan’s midfield, and now again proves vital on the Champions League stage.

Ancelotti still has plenty of work to do, still without a La Liga title in his two years at the Bernabeu, an especially painful void after essentially throwing away the table’s top spot down the stretch this year.  But it was obvious the Champions League – not the domestic titles – was the club’s top priority this season.

And while Chelsea aren’t dead in the water without the Italian leading the way – they themselves won Champions League glory in 2012 after his departure – let me finish by handing you this little nugget to chew on. Real Madrid brought in seven new players last summer, and it showed early.  The club took a bit of time to settle in.

However, it’s those that left Madrid that tell the story.  Each of the four players that left won a trophy with their new club – Mesut Ozil at Arsenal, and Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon, and Raul Albiol at Napoli.  The only one who failed to win a trophy after leaving Real Madrid last summer: Jose Mourinho.

And that, my friends, is revenge served up cold, the only way Carlo Ancelotti likes it.

Latest Posts
  1. LMA describe Malkay Mackay texts as ‘banter’ as online apology issued

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:19 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    LMA statement: “These were two text messages sent in private at a time Malky felt under great pressure and when he was letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter.”

  2. Queens Park Rangers sign Chilean international Eduardo Vargas on loan

    Aug 21, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SSC Napoli v PAOK - Preseason Friendly Getty Images

    Exciting attacker arrives at Loftus Road for the 2014-15 season.

  3. Luis Suarez not included in Uruguay’s squad for upcoming friendlies

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

    Uruguay's Luis Suarez kicks the ball during the group D World Cup soccer match against Italy at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Uruguay defeated Italy 1-0. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan) AP

    Despite being eligible to play for his country, Suarez left off Uruguay’s roster.

  4. Sami Khedira rejects new contract at Real Madrid, alerts Arsenal, Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    sami_khedira Getty Images

    Khedira turns down new deal at Real. Will the Spaniards cash in on him now?

  5. Report: Xabi Alonso heading to Manchester United

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Spain v France - UEFA EURO 2012 Quarter Final Getty Images

    Former Liverpool star could be heading to United as Real Madrid seek to trim squad.

  6. Tottenham eye Champions League spot via Europa League title

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:16 AM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino AP

    Spurs boss in dramatic U-turn on Europa League after previously dismissing tournament.

  7. Influential CEO Tim Leiweke to leave Toronto FC, MLSE

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:46 AM EDT

    Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA's 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.) AP

    Leiweke to leave MLSE, as leading sports executive calls it quits in Toronto.

  8. VIDEO: Watch LA Galaxy launch astonishing comeback, beat Colorado 4-3

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    landon_donovan Getty Images

    After trailing 3-1, LA came roaring back to win 4-3 as Donovan bagged the winner.

  9. Angel Di Maria wants to leave Real Madrid, rejects new contract

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    angel_di_maria Getty Images

    Di Maria wants out of Real, will Manchester United be able to pounce for his signature?

  10. Crystal Palace’s Sporting Director Iain Moody resigns after text scandal

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

    West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Moody, pictured center, has resigned from his role at Palace following damaging allegations.

  11. Mario Balotelli edging closer to shock $26 million Liverpool switch

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Liverpool, AC Milan agree Balotelli transfer as player, agent set to arrive at Anfield.

  12. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Tiote to Arsenal, Destro to Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Monster moves rumored. Check out all the latest gossip, right here.

  13. Angel Di Maria gets love from Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Diego Simeone

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Both Ronaldo and Ramos have gone to Madrid president Florentino Perez to ask him to keep Di Maria.

  14. Jozy Altidore is the happiest he’s ever been, says Gus Poyet

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.

  15. Malky Mackay and Iain Moody investigated by FA for ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages while at Cardiff City

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    Malky Mackay has been reported to the Football Association for being involved in a series of racist, sexist and homophobic text messages.

  16. WATCH: Kid asks Jamie Carragher if he was ever bitten by Luis Suarez

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT

    Jamie Carragher AP

    If Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher showed up to your training to sign autographs, what would you ask him?

  17. Mikel Arteta out at least two weeks with sprained ankle, will miss Besiktas clash

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Should age matter when evaluating a player's contract extension? Getty Images

    Arteta’s status means that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini will be the holding midfield partnership against the Turks.

  18. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Porto and Zenit win, all others draw

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    Hector Herrera

    Champions League play-offs continued on Wednesday with a series of tight contests headlined by a 1-0 victory for FC Porto at Lyon.

  19. Liverpool and AC Milan in talks over deal for Mario Balotelli

    Aug 20, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Italy Training Session & Press Conference Getty Images

    Could Mario Balotelli be Liverpool’s answer to replace Luis Suarez?

  20. Vincent Tan ruins Malky Mackay’s chance of landing the Crystal Palace job

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Charlton Athletic - npower Championship Getty Images

    Malky Mackay can’t escape Vincent Tan after Cardiff owner files report with FA that prompts Palace to withdraw managerial offer.

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1