Carlo Ancelotti returns to Real Madrid bringing not only a history of winning trophies to a club that particularly craves them, but also an aura of calm that it sometimes lacks.
“Carlo never gets angry.” So said Paolo Maldini, who spent five seasons alongside Ancelotti the player and eight under Ancelotti the coach.
The 61-year-old Ancelotti is returning to Madrid, where he coached Real from 2013-15, with unfinished business.
Ancelotti has led teams to league titles in Italy, Germany, England and France. But, while he won one of his three Champions Leagues as a coach with Real, Spain is the only one of the big five European football nations where he has not won the league.
The Italian has accumulated an eye-catching collection of trophies with the most understated and phlegmatic of coaching styles.
The only sign of emotion on the sideline is his famous raised left eyebrow.
His approach has appealed less to the biggest clubs in recent years.
Since being fired by Bayern in 2017, he has worked for the slightly less aristocratic Napoli and Everton.
Ancelotti led Bayern to a German cup and league double in 2017, but was fired in September after losing to Paris Saint-Germain early in the Champions League group stage.
Hie decision to drop veterans including Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben for that game intensified a growing rift with senior players. The club leadership sided with its stars.
It was a first for Ancelotti, who is renowned for his closeness to his players.
Maldini, his former AC Milan captain, once described Ancelotti as a coach as a “nice, fat, bear” incapable of getting angry: “That can only happen when he’s eating, because once he’s got a fork in his hand, you need an army to stop him!”
This calmness and bonhomie, as well as his immense experience, has often allowed Ancelotti to play the role of peacemaker.
After he arrived at Paris Saint-Germain in December 2011, he failed to win the French league in his first year season but ironed out rifts in the squad, treating stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic with flexibility and taking a paternalistic approach to prospects such as Marco Verratti. He won Ligue 1 in his second season.
He also won an English double with Chelsea in 2010, before being fired after the club finished second in the league the following season and went out in the Champions League last eight.
Ancelotti started his first stint at Real by healing wounds in a dressing room that had been set on fire by his predecessor, Jose Mourinho.
He earned the support and affection of Real’s heavyweights, including Cristiano Ronaldo.
That was not enough to save him in 2015 after a disappointing end to the season at a club he had guided to its tenth Champions League title in 2014, the long-awaited “Decima”.
Diplomacy and intrigue
These memories and Ancelotti’s family ties — his wife is Spanish-Canadian — gave him every reason to return to the Bernabeu.
This time he replaces Zinedine Zidane, who started his coaching career under Ancelotti and conducts himself with similar restraint.
The club of his heart, however, remains AC Milan, where he spent 13 years, first as a player between 1987 and 1992 and then as a coach between 2001 and 2009
There he learned the arts of diplomacy – and intrigue.
As a player, he was a hard-working midfielder won played for Parma and then Roma before joining AC Milan where he won two Champions Leagues (1989 and 1990) under the legendary Arrigo Sacchi. He also played 26 times for Italy.
As a coach, he led the club to an Italian Cup in 2003, a league title in 2004 and two Champions Leagues in 2003 and 2007, as well as in the epic 2005 final loss to Liverpool.
He started coaching at Serie B Reggiana in 1995 before moving to Parma and Juventus, where he failed to make an impact between 1999 and 2001.