Carlo Ancelotti could easily be referred to as “The Perfector” – the man an already successful team brings in to take them one step further and win the coveted grand trophies reserved for the very best.
A proven winner with a trophy laden cabinet both as a player and as a coach, Ancelotti is the maestro associated with the big clubs and the big names in football.
Now he is the manager of Everton, who have not finished above seventh place in the Premier League since 2014 and are 15th at Christmas this year.
Puzzled? It is hard not to be, but it seems Ancelotti is bewitched by the idea of building a project and proving he is not only a manager for the big occasions but also one who can lay foundations and create a winning team.
Everton are rumoured to have been interested in Ancelotti for some time, since the Italian lost his job at Bayern Munich, if not before.
His success at working in highly pressurised environments and the bond he creates with his players – not to mention his tactical nous – have long attracted them to the winning coach. With him at the helm, Everton believe they can succeed where Bayern and Napoli have failed.
Ancelotti first won over the Premier League when he guided Chelsea to their first Double. Beloved by his players, he went on to manage Paris St-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli, though while he may have added to his trophy haul, criticism of his work has led many to question if the 60-year-old is the right man to take over at Goodison Park.
For 10 years, Ancelotti presided over the two most successful Italian clubs, Juventus and AC Milan. He won the Champions League twice but walked away with only one league title to his name.
As if to solidify his reputation as a man who could not guarantee domestic success, Ancelotti suffered the ignominy of relinquishing the French top-flight crown to Montpellier in his first (half) season at PSG.
When the Italian took over from Antoine Kombouare in 2011, PSG were top of Ligue 1 but were soon overtaken by their more consistent rivals and finished second. Ancelotti did go on to win the title the following season, but his move to Real Madrid in 2013 seemed a better fit.
The Spanish giants are obsessed by European competitions and Ancelotti arrived at the Bernabeu at the right time. Predecessor Jose Mourinho might have brought Los Blancos a lot of success, but his tenure was one of relentless drama and uncomfortable tension.
It was at Real that Ancelotti became known as something of a “diva whisperer”. His man-management skill, which brought harmony to a once highly tense dressing room, was one of the main reasons attributed to the club’s success under his leadership.
However, what often gets overlooked is how tactically flexible Ancelotti made the team. Under Mourinho, Real were the perfect counter-attacking side. Ancelotti wanted to keep utilising that direct style but add more control and unpredictability, making the side more comfortable in possession.
By beating three German clubs, including Bayern Munich, on their way to the 2014 Champions League final, Ancelotti changed attitudes, renewed confidence and bettered his players to create the La Decima-winning side.
It is no wonder his set of ‘Galacticos’ burst into his news conference after the win to sing “Como no te voy a querer” (How am I not going to love you) to him.
It was a song Bayern Munich’s players were probably never going to sing upon his move in 2016, and his reputation as the great man-manager took a hit in Germany. Rumours of angered players forced to arrange high-intensity, secret training sessions behind Ancelotti’s back spread like wildfire.
Supposed quotes from players criticising the Italian’s relaxed methods were vehemently denied but, according to what club president Uli Hoeness told Radio FFH after sacking the manager, Ancelotti had turned five important players against him.
As Ancelotti explained in an interview with Kicker: “I’m not a coach, who kills his players in training.”
It was always going to be difficult to take over from Pep Guardiola at Bayern.
The Spaniard had won over his squad and created arguably the most beautiful football ever witnessed in the Bundesliga. Ancelotti, the pragmatist, may have finally won a league title again, but he lost the battle with the players.
At Napoli in 2018, Ancelotti was expected to take the club that had challenged Juventus so closely for the title that one step further. It was a tough ask. Napoli operated on a smaller budget and were overachieving in terms of results.
With players nearing the end of their contracts and looking for gratitude, there was a limit to what could be managed.
Struggling to convert the many chances they created, Napoli were suffering – but when president Aurelio de Laurentiis ordered the players to attend a week-long training camp after they slipped 211 points behind Juve, he effectively broke them. Not only did he go over Ancelotti’s head and interfere with team affairs, but the president then went on to fine the players for not abiding by his rules.
While Ancelotti has a history of working with tough presidents, they have largely trusted his work. As soon as they have interfered, Ancelotti and his teams have suffered.
At Real Madrid, he effectively blamed his substitution of Gareth Bale in a game for his eventual sacking, admitting it led to a huge row with president Florentino Perez, while De Laurentiis’s interference with coaching matters largely created the disharmony that overwhelmed Napoli.
Will he find the trust and the project he has been yearning for at Goodison Park? According to AC Milan and Italy legend Paolo Maldini, “there is not a team in existence that Carlo cannot coach”.
Everton will soon find out.