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His side are 12 points clear at the top of La Liga and are preparing for a Champions League quarter-final with Chelsea, so why does Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti still appear to be under serious threat? to be sacked?
To understand the Italian’s precarious situation, you have to consider the context of his arrival at the club last summer.
Real were in good turmoil, with a trophyless season followed by the departure of iconic boss Zinedine Zidane along with captain Sergio Ramos and central defensive partner Raphael Varane.
At such a precarious time in terms of morale, club president Florentino Perez needed a pair of sure hands, someone to lead the short-term task of calmly guiding the team out of choppy waters.
A sense of stability and continuity was required and no one fit the bill better than Ancelotti, whose experience and laid-back manner made him the ideal candidate to restore order.
He has undoubtedly achieved this goal. Real took advantage of an inconsistent season from reigning champions Atletico Madrid, a terrible start from Barcelona and a lack of firepower in Sevilla to establish a surely impregnable position at the top of La Liga – this meaning Ancelotti is set to become the first manager in history to win the title in each of Europe’s big five leagues.
Whether Ancelotti – who may be forced to follow Stamford Bridge action at home after contracting Covid last week – will have the chance to defend the crown next season, however, is another matter.
Is history about to repeat itself?
Real’s results over the campaign have been vastly better than their performances, with the team often relying too much on Karim Benzema for attacking inspiration and Thibaut Courtois for goalkeeping heroism.
The former’s absence was particularly notable a few weeks ago when Real suffered a humiliating 4-0 home thrashing at the hands of a rejuvenated Barcelona, who already look capable of putting in a serious push for all the silverware la next season.
A major criticism of Ancelotti throughout the season is that he has shown a very limited ability to rotate his squad, repeatedly lining up with roughly the same starting XI regardless of their quality of play. Game.
With Benzema unavailable for last month’s Clasico, Real’s lack of strategic variety was on display to an alarming degree as Barca cruised to an incredibly easy win – and Ancelotti only weakened his position with a disastrous tactical change. at half time which had to be abandoned when the visitors scored two minutes after the restart.
For Perez, embarrassing performances of this nature are usually a signal to change coach: Rafael Benitez was sacked shortly after a 4-0 home loss to Barça in 2015; Julen Lopetegui left immediately after a 5-1 defeat at Camp Nou in 2018, and Santi Solari was dismissed following a 4-1 Champions League home loss to Ajax a few months later.
The suspicion that Perez doesn’t fully trust Ancelotti is bolstered by a simple fact: he already fired the Italian once, in 2015 when Ancelotti was sacked a year after winning the club’s 10th European title.
Back then, a humble 4-0 mid-season loss to Atletico played a major role in Perez’s transformation against the manager.
It looks increasingly likely that history will repeat itself in the weeks to come, with just another Champions League triumph or a perfect finish to the league campaign that should be enough to persuade Perez not to fire Ancelotti.
Who could replace Ancelotti?
So if the Italian leaves, who replaces him this time?
As with Manchester United, Mauricio Pochettino has long been linked with a move to the Bernabeu, while Bayern Munich’s Julian Nagelsmann is admired by Perez and Real legend Raul is increasingly coming into the picture after an impressive stint in charge. the club’s B team.
Whoever is at the helm will have to frame a transition period. Long-time stalwarts Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal are to be gradually replaced, while unwanted veterans Gareth Bale, Isco and Marcelo will leave at the end of the season when their contracts expire.
The midfield can be rejuvenated by bigger roles for Fede Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga, who have been largely sidelined by Ancelotti’s continued insistence on starting with Modric, Kroos and Casemiro whenever possible.
However, Kylian Mbappe is most important in the background.
“Real could be very different next season”
Real have been doing all they can in recent years to lure French superstar Mbappe away from Paris St-Germain, and it seems inevitable that the long-running quest to bring him to the Bernabeu will finally bear fruit this summer.
His training preferences should be taken into consideration before his eventual arrival.
With Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland also targeted by Perez, who is desperate to retain his club’s place among Europe’s elite despite financial advantages from clubs such as PSG and Manchester City, Real Madrid’s starting XI this season next could be very different from the lot. of players regularly selected by Ancelotti.
And the silhouette in the canoe too.