By All Blue Daze.
The contrasting troubled waters and calming oils of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.
When hurricane Jose Mourinho finally blew out of the Bernabeu for a reunion with Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, there may have been a general audible sigh of relief from Los Blancos. Their relationship with the Portuguese brought trophies – as it always does with any club that the ‘Special One’ manages. It also brought discord and left a trail of dissatisfaction – it always does that as well. Waves of trouble and howls of strife, plus a trophy or two were his legacy to the Bernabeu. No-one was expecting much different.
Mourinho’s way often involves conflict both within the club, and between it and the various bodies of authority. For those prepared to accept that price however, he invariably delivers success. All that to one side however, when he left, Real Madrid were looking for a different sort of manager. They wanted someone with a more empathetic approach to the club in particular and the world in general. Someone that could make the club feel good about itself again. They could not have selected much better than Carlo Ancelotti. Although there are a spooky number of similarities between the records of the Italian and Mourinho, their approaches to the job could hardly be more different.
Whilst Ancelotti’s trophy-laden playing record far outstrips Mournho’s non-career, their managerial records have eerie echoes of each other. Ancelotti both followed and preceded Mourinho at Chelsea where both enjoyed league title success. Both also won the Serie A title with a Milanese club. Ancelotti with AC Milan, and Mourinho with Inter, and both have two Champions League/European Cup successes to their names. Should Ancelotti go on and secure the La Liga title this year with Real Madrid, they will form an exclusive club of managers to have won all three major European – English, Italian and Spanish – leagues, with the added bonus of throwing in a relatively minor one as well. Mourinho did it with Porto in Portugal, and Ancelotti with PSG in France. Looking at these similarities only emphasises the old maxim however, that there are more ways than one to skin a cat – or build a successful football squad.
With Mourinho, now supposedly the ‘Happy One’ back in the managerial chair at Stamford Bridge, it didn’t take long for feuds with Arsene Wenger to resurface, and one imported from the Iberian Peninsula with Manuel Pellegrini to flare. Of course his club top the league table, they usually do, but this is the gift you gain for the price paid of tolerating his particular ethos. Ever since he landed in west London in 2004, Chelsea have seemed powerless to resist the lure of Mourinho. Like some lovelorn helpless fool locked into a mutually destructive relationship, it’s an embrace they can’t seem to live without. The Portuguese is often cited as the reason so many football fans dislike Chelsea, but this only seems to tighten the bond between the club and its manager.
Meanwhile, over in Madrid, Ancelotti has poured his soothing oil on Los Blancos’ troubled waters. The squad is no longer full of conflicts, although Iker Casillas still sits on the bench, and players such as Luca Modric has been retained, and even advanced. This hasn’t been because he is one of Ancelotti’s players however, but simply because the team performs better with him on the pitch. A new star has been introduced into the squad, with the acquisition of Gareth Bale, but barely a ripple of discontent has been heard from the team’s ‘top man’ Cristiano Ronaldo as the experienced Italian manager has managed the process with such calm assurance. His way is not with a snarl or an acid comment, but merely that seemingly perpetually raised left eyebrow.
Please indulge me here, while I return to the similarities for a moment. Like Mourinho, Ancelotti’s team also stand top of their league, and both seem well-placed to progress into the Champions’ League quarter-finals. Now, for those that believe in twists of fate/weird coincidences/the whim of higher beings (delete as applicable), what are the odds of Ancelotti and Mourinho, assuming both clubs deliver their predicted advancements, being paired in the draw for the next round? For someone who recognised the inevitability of Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge in the Round of Sixteen, I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.
When Mourinho was on his way to securing the Champion’s League with Inter Milan, his team comprehensively defeated Ancelotti’s Chelsea on the way. The defeat doubtless reawakened Chelsea’s open wound of the seemingly unrequited love they felt for the manager who had left them and the longing for his return. That defeat may well have been one of the early harbingers of Ancelotti’s later dismissal. If the two clash again, it may be a debt he is keen to repay.
Although Mourinho and Ancelotti travel in different ways, it’s surprising how many times their paths have crossed. One more time wouldn’t really be a major surprise, would it?
With near on identical records, who do you believe is the superior manager?
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