This article is part of Get Football’s European Player and Coach of the Season series, as we countdown our ranked top 12 in both categories to name the winners ahead of the Champions League final at the end of the month. Read every profile and see the full ranking right here.
When Carlo Ancelotti accepted the offer of managing Real Madrid for the second time in a heartbeat, there were mixed feelings. His appointment had come out of the blue, with names like Antonio Conte, José Mourinho and Massimiliano Allegri featuring more in the rumour mills. Skepticism – and rightfully so – given he had been sacked by Napoli and finished mid-table with Everton in his previous two jobs, yet, a sense of positivity; he was after all the man who delivered la Décima to the Santiago Bernabéu outfit. Nearly a season later, Ancelotti’s signature calm demeanour had been the perfect addition to mediate the turbulence within the club last July.
It is imperative that we remember exactly how chaotic the scenario was at Madrid. A lost league campaign, a record number of injuries suffered and eventually three gargantuan departures: Zinedine Zidane, Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane. Now, those problems are a distant memory. Los Blancos are runaway league champions and are knocking on the door of la Decimocuarta, and Carlo Ancelotti deserves a lot of credit for it.
Ancelotti’s Madrid have played with far more offensive fluidity than Zinedine Zidane’s side, and that has helped unlock the astronomical potential of Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian winger has scored over 20 goals and given over 15 assists across all competitions, unleashing what could be the breakthrough season to superstardom. And Ancelotti has been instrumental in unearthing the new Vinicius.
“For scoring goals, I’ve told him [Vinicius] that it’s rare to score after taking five or six touches. To score, you need one touch or maybe two maximum. You have to be in the area. He’s very young and he’ll improve,” Ancelotti explained.
This has been Madrid’s best season in front of goal since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. Karim Benzema has finally found another potent partner-in-crime, and Ancelotti must be given credit for it.
Another of Ancelotti’s masterstrokes has been bringing back physical trainer and compatriot Antonio Pintus. He has been influential in fine-tuning Real Madrid’s performance after a season that saw the club ragged with the injury tally exceeding 60 in the 2020/21 season. Luka Modrić has perhaps been the biggest example of Pintus’ magic. The Croatian, just months away from turning 37, has been reinvigorated, displaying the work rate of someone years younger.
Modrić’s stupendous work rate has helped in numerous defensive recoveries against even the best of sides. His magical run right through the heart of PSG’s midfield to orchestrate Madrid’s equaliser in the Champions League round of 16 has been one of the highlights of the season. The fact that Modrić heaved heavy praise on Pintus after Madrid overcame yet another rigorous tie in extra time against Manchester City is proof enough of the trainer’s influence in oiling the Real Madrid juggernaut.
Ancelotti has also established, and in some cases rekindled, a brilliant relationship with his players. Aided by the experience already present, the Madrid squad has seemed extremely harmonious the entire season. In a viral video, Ancelotti was seen consulting senior statesmen Toni Kroos and club captain Marcelo for who he would bring on in the semi-final against City. Up stepped fringe players such as Dani Ceballos and Jesús Vallejo, playing a crucial part in seeing the game out.
This trust has, no doubt, helped in bolstering the psychological state of the players who have pulled off three incredible comebacks in the Champions League beyond any apparent tactical explanation. It has also helped in stabilising the squad harmony when the situation hasn’t quite been a bed of roses, such as after an embarrassing 4-0 loss at home to Barcelona in El Clásico.
A picture of Ancelotti puffing a cigar in celebration of Real Madrid’s 35th La Liga title gained popularity across social media. Flanking him were Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Éder Militão and David Alaba, four players that best symbolise Real Madrid’s success this season.
Vinicius has been the best winger in Spain, Rodrygo has found an uncanny knack for impacting in big moments, and Militão and Alaba have played a big part in ensuring that Ramos and Varane have not been missed. Throw in the dynamic usage of Fede Valverde in crucial games and Eduardo Camavinga showing midfield intelligence well beyond his teen years in high-profile knockout ties. Ancelotti has developed Madrid’s bubbling young core into game-changers on the biggest stage, laying the ideal foundation for years to come.
Madrid lifted the Spanish Super Cup in January, beating Athletic Club in the final. More success was to come for Los Blancos just over three months later. Ancelotti become the first manager in history to conquer all of Europe’s modern top 5 leagues, after Madrid lifted their 35th La Liga title.
Upon beating Manchester City, he equalled the record for most Champions League finals reached by a manager with five. Real Madrid will unprecedentedly play on the grandest European night with the aim of lifting the trophy for the fourteenth time against Liverpool on Saturday.
A campaign that started in disarray could end up in the history books as one of the club’s finest ever, and Carlo Ancelotti has been pivotal at the helm in constructing it.