Carlo Ancelotti the archway firefighter who always pays his route | Richard Williams3 months, 4 days ago
Latest book about Bayern Munichs new director says he saw the end coming early at Chelsea and Real Madrid, and discloses the unstinting admiration of Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The captains of industry and cultural rainmakers who form the usual casting of a weekly-newspaper feature titled Lunch with the FT tend to use the opportunity to make a public demonstration of their ascetic personal habits. A small salad and a bottle of sparkling water is usually enough to induce the point about what disciplined lives they lead.
Not Carlo Ancelotti.
When the man who has won the European Cup twice as a player and the Champions League three times as a manager sat down with an FT journalist last week at a favourite Italian eatery in Mayfair, he began by ordering an 82 bottle of Guidalberto, a red wine from Tuscany. I dont need to try it, he told the waiter. I know this wine.
The contents of the bottle vanished, along with a selection of starters and a doubled order of lobster with tagliolini. You like grappa? Ancelotti asked the journalist, who prepared to honour the FTs custom by paying the bill with a twinge of anxiety when it came to a few pennies short of 250. He got out his card, merely to discover that Ancelotti had already come to an arrangement with the proprietor. No fuss.
At Ancelottis home, you always eat well, Adriano Galliani says. The long-serving general manager of Milan, Galliani was the buffer between Silvio Berlusconi and Ancelotti during the latters eight years as the team administrator, from 2001 to 2009( quite a accomplishment, given that in the past 20 years Berlusconi has hired and fired 13 managers , not counting caretakers ).
Galliani is one of the witness whose evidence appears in Quiet Leadership, Ancelottis new volume of semi-autobiography. Co-authored with the management studies expert Chris Brody and the former Chelsea director of football operations Mike Forde, it is probably intended to be racked in the business studies shelves at airport bookshops. But like its predecessor, published just as Ancelotti joined Chelsea in 2009 it is also a treasury of anecdote and insight.
Everyone likes the man who is about to take over at Bayern Munich, which is why the books other voices include Cristiano Ronaldo, Alex Ferguson, Paolo Maldini, John Terry, Alessandro Nesta and David Beckham. They all have affectionate things to say about him as a human his personal warmth, his tactical flexible, his humour, his tendency to lapse into Italian on the rare occasions when he loses his mood in the dressing room but their narratives, and his, create a picture of one style of managing a football squad: a rational approach to the job of operating a team amid the climate of lunacy found at the top of the European club football pyramid.
At Real Madrid, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain, however, rationality is generally in short supply. There is nothing he would love more than to recreate the sense of family he enjoyed with Milan, involving himself in a long-term project, but age and experience please give him a philosophical posture to the whims of proprietors such as Roman Abramovich, presidents such as Florentino Prez and directors of football such as Leonardo, an erstwhile friend by whom he feels betrayed.
At Chelsea he was impressed by the requirement to attend 10 meetings to discuss his ideas before being offered the job. He won the Doubled straight away but in his second season, he writes: I find the end coming months before it did, just as I would subsequently at Madrid. He[ Abramovich] would try to convince me, with all my experience to the contrary, to be stronger, tougher and more rigorous with the players. Ive heard it before and Ive heard it since, but he was wrong they are all wrong. What they hire me for is to calm the situation at a club by building its relation with the players. At some later stage that is not the approach they want any more and the relationship with the owners not the players, but the owners begins to worsen. They hire me to be kind and pacify with the players and then at the first sign of trouble along the way thats the very characteristic they point to as the problem.
Those who think of him as soft might come away from the book watching virtue in a willingness to listen to the believes of others and to step back when necessary. He lets Terry take on the job of persuading Didier Drogba to stop diving and exaggerating traumata, knowing that the lesson in English football etiquette would come more powerfully from an English player. He describes consulting Andrea Pirlo on the revolutionary positional shift that turned a very good player into a great one.
He is impressed when Beckham, before making a deal with Berlusconi and Galliani for a loan period with Milan, calls him up first. He is smart enough to know that, with his profile, it could be that he is being pressed on to a manager for reasons other than football. So he contacted me directly and would like to know whether I wanted him to come to Milan. I told him Yes. We trusted one another to speak the truth.
He is, however, a pragmatist. If Berlusconi wants to come to the dressing room to tell his gags, he writes, I have to understand that it is his dressing room. When Ronaldo indicates that he does not want to play alongside another striker in a 4-4-2 formation, Ancelotti thinks to himself: Who am I to argue? How can I change the position of a player who scores 60 aims a season? So I had to find a solution.
If he moves to a club that does not want him to bring his own support staff, he simply adapts. Bringing in tried and trusted lieutenants sounds sensible, he writes, but presumably they were also at your side when you were sacked from your previous task. I giggled at that, and thought of the newspaper pictures of Rui Faria at Jos Mourinhos side this week, while the Portuguese provocateurs negotiations with Manchester United were going on.
Ferguson writes that he tried to persuade Ancelotti to succeed him. It didnt quite work up, he says. Another time, maybe. Thats an interesting statement which might even turn out to be prophetic, bearing in mind the fact that Ancelotti has some experience of putting out Mourinhos fires.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has played for and admires them both, and who currently appears certain to start next season in Uniteds colours, makes an interesting comparing between the Italian and the Portuguese. Jos Mourinho knows how to treat a footballer, he says, but Carlo knows how to treat a person. He also pays the bill.
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