FEATURES

HOW CARLO ANCELOTTI’S PLAYING CAREER INSPIRED HIS ROLE ON THE TOUCHLINE

A successful player and now an exciting manager, Carlo Ancelotti's time on the pitch has inspired his spells on the touchline as he now leads Napoli into a fascinating era.

After his first season as Napoli’s manager, Carlo Ancelotti said, ”we drew back the arrow, now we are ready to fire”. And fire he did, with not only his wins but also his legacy.

One of only seven people to have lifted the European Cup as both a player and a coach, Ancelotti is regarded as one of the most successful managers of all time. The 60-year-old is also the second manager, after Bob Paisley, to win the trophy three times. He has won titles in Europe’s five biggest leagues with his Serie A title coming with AC Milan back in 2004.

Aa a combative midfielder, he helped Roma win the 1983 Serie A title and four Italian Cups. Then he joined AC Milan in 1986, where he added two more league championships, as well as back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 1989 and 1990.

His story not only amazes one but activates the dormancy in players to rise above all battles and score right into the net.

Ancelotti’s journey started much before he entered the field though. He grew up in the farms of hard work and little reward. As he saw his father slave away for meagre amounts, a deep passion for work and gratitude developed in his mind. Now, as he embarks on the second year of his three-year contract and aims for a silverware this campaign with Napoli, his modesty is displayed in paradoxical ways in his achievements.

Nicknamed as Carletto, he has had a fair amount of success as a player too. Widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation in Italy, he played for Parma, Roma, AC Milan, and the Italian national team, between 1976 and 1992, scoring a total of 35 goals in 338 appearances for all the clubs combined.

He arrived in Naples boasting three Champions League trophies from his spells with Milan and Real Madrid, and a Premier League title from his two-year tenure at Chelsea. The veteran coach insists he has learned from his “transitional” first season. Ancelotti has bolstered in all areas with the arrival of defender Kostas Manolas, midfielder Elif Elmas, and winger Hirving Lozano.

A world-class manager, it’s no surprise that Carlo’s excellence off the pitch was matched by technique and intelligence on it. Whether he was at Parma, Roma or AC Milan, he managed to make a big impact wherever he played and he was a significant figure in Italian football during his playing days.

Ancelotti’s contributions were significant in helping Parma to a second-place finish in Serie C1 during his playing days in 1978 and in the following campaign, he managed to score a crucial brace during their Serie B play-off fixture against Triestina. The scores were level at 1-1, but unfazed, Ancelotti’s two-goal haul sealed promotion into Italy’s second tier while seeing his stock rise as one of the best youngsters in the country.

Later on, hungry for more, Ancelotti’s excellent performances helped propel Roma into the 1984 European Cup final. Injury once again struck, meaning he missed another big opportunity to attain silverware as Liverpool prevailed on penalties at the Stadio Olimpico.

Ancelotti joined Milan in the summer of 1987 and the next few years were undoubtedly the best in terms of success across all competitions.

He was a key component in midfield as Milan won Serie A in 1987/88 before they retained the European Cup with successive victories (1988/89 and 1989/90). During these years, the Rossoneri began assembling an even stronger side with financial backing from club president Silvio Berlusconi present. Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, and Marco van Basten were just five of the players who pushed Milan forward as they continued to improve at a rapid rate.

Despite not being the quickest, Ancelotti utilised his intelligence to good effect. A creative-thinking player who proved leadership and organisational qualities at an early age, he made up for a lack of acceleration with hard work as well as a tenacious attitude.

His aforementioned attacking threat from distance was perhaps most memorably seen in Milan colours, where he netted a fantastic strike during their 5-0 thrashing over Real Madrid in the 1989 Champions League semi-finals.

An easy-going and down-to-earth man, Ancelotti lives and breathes football. What better way to salute his legacy if not celebrate his attitude on the field as a fantastic player. Owing to his robust skills, a stand-out moment in his club career came when he scored a long-range goal while playing for AC Milan in a European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid, which the Rossoneri triumphed 5-0 before going on to win the coveted title.

Ancelotti Champions League
ANCELOTTI ENJOYED A SUCCESSFUL PLAYING CAREER BEFORE SHIFTING TO MANAGEMENT

It was with Parma that he would not only make his professional breakthrough in Italian football’s third tier but figure out his best position. For this, he had a lot to thank former Milan captain Cesare Maldini, who became Parma coach in 1978.

A worthy champion from day one, Ancelotti had started as a number nine, but he lacked the speed necessary to operate effectively atop the team. Thus, Maldini brought him back into a more withdrawn role, where he could scheme behind Fabio Bonci, focusing on linking play and creating chances. It was from this position that Ancelotti began to turn heads higher up the Calcio hierarchy, helping Parma to promotion in 1979.

Ancelotti had attracted attention with his performances for Parma as they won promotion to Serie B, and Roma’s Nils Liedholm desperately wanted him to add class to the midfield. Inter Milan were also interested, but the capital side won the race for the youngster’s signature, for whom the proceeding years would prove a formative experience.

Having settled and thrived in a deeper midfield role during his eight years with Roma, Ancelotti’s development as a player was essentially complete. But his trophy haul didn’t quite match up to his immense talent. One league title and four Italian cups was an admirable collection, but it would be given an extra sheen following his departure in 1987.

In 1987-88, his first term at the San Siro, Milan lost just twice in league action as they won their first Scudetto in nine years. And, in his second season, the club would lift their third European Cup after a two-decade wait.

Ancelotti was, by that point, an experienced midfield competitor with supreme tactical awareness masking his relative lack of athleticism. His scoring instincts had been well and truly curbed since his early days at Parma, though he was nonetheless responsible for one of the most stunning and important goals of the Arrigo Sacchi years.

In April 1989, Milan took on Real Madrid at home in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final. History was at stake following a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu. In the 19th minute, Ancelotti received the ball from Gullit about 25 yards out. He turned inside his marker and then jinked inside another opponent before unleashing a rocket of a shot beyond Real goalkeeper Francisco Buyo. Ancelotti would help Milan retain their continental title in 1990 with a 1-0 final victory over Benfica.

He showed adaptability to settle in Rome and Milan, separate worlds to where he grew up. Also, he proved himself a versatile operator, taking up different tactical roles to suit both his skills and his teams’ needs.

When it came to nurturing promising young players, he was the man his coaches looked to set an example. Outstanding talents such as Giuseppe Giannini and Demetrio Albertini benefited from his presence as a player of true class, intelligence and experience. In essence, before he took to the touchline he was already a leader.

Ancelotti proved to be a vital part of two great eras for two different teams. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he was a core component for Milan and Roma during spells of real success. In the process, he became an icon for both clubs.

Italia 90
ANCELOTTI WAS A KEY FIGURE IN MIDFIELD – WHETHER IT WAS FOR CLUB OR COUNTRY

Since hanging up his boots and taking over on the touchline, Ancelotti has enjoyed success wherever he has managed. From winning league titles in Germany and England to the European Cup in Spain and Italy, hiring Ancelotti is guaranteeing silverware. That hasn’t quite been the case at Napoli, however, but there is a clear identity and it can be seen what the Italian is attempting to build.

Napoli gained plaudits for both their results and style of play under Maurizio Sarri where they impressed many and broke several records. Ancelotti’s work has been to build on the very specific style Sarri implemented and make the necessary tweaks to make Napoli improve.

The main change has seen Ancelotti drop the 4-3-3 Sarri used and Carletto started the season with. Instead, Ancelotti has moved to a 4-4-2 with the biggest change has been the deployment of Marek Hamšík in a more defensive role and Lorenzo Insigne through the centre as a second striker.

In his autobiography, Ancelotti explained why he believes 4-4-2 the best defensive formation there is. He said that he finds it the formation to best cover space vertically as well as horizontally. We’ve seen him use it before; at Real Madrid, Ancelotti largely played 4-3-3 in possession but that changed to a 4-4-2 in defence. It’s hard to say it didn’t work as Real Madrid won the 2014 Champions League and Copa del Rey.

Ancelotti the midfielder was the brains of Sacchi’s Milan that won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990. As a coach, he has inevitably drawn on his playing career.

When looking back on Ancelotti’s success in 2009-10 the flexibility of the man with the majestic eyebrow stands out. Chelsea’s two most recent league title-winning teams were each synonymous with a specific formation – 4-2-3-1 for José Mourinho’s 2014-15 team and 3-4-3 for Antonio Conte’s 2016-17 team.

But a lack of formational consistency didn’t trouble, and perhaps even benefited, Ancelotti’s triumphant Chelsea. It’s especially interesting to compare the adaptability of Ancelotti’s shape-shifting double winners with managers who, last season, have possessed a seemingly self-sabotaging dogma.

Balance has been a critical component of Ancelotti’s most successful teams, and they’ve achieved it despite having deployed starting lineups that often featured a potentially lopsided abundance of attacking talent. While at Milan, with a squad containing traditional number 10s Rui Costa, Clarence Seedorf, and Andrea Pirlo, Ancelotti was able to get all three on the pitch simultaneously without jeopardizing the team’s overall stability. Notably, this involved playing Pirlo as a deep-lying midfielder.

Serie A runners-up Napoli have not held the Scudetto aloft since Argentine legend Diego Maradona inspired them to their only titles in 1987 and 1990.

As the sole survivor of coaching shuffle among the leading challengers this season, Carlo Ancelotti has a good chance to end Napoli’s 30-year wait for the Serie A title. Ancelotti arrived at Napoli last summer after the exit of Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea and has had a rather average season so far at Naples.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti has given the impression that he is planning for a big project at the Partenopei, saying that he decides which way it goes. Replacing the hugely popular Sarri, who had guided the Neapolitans to three top-three finishes on the bounce and a record points tally of 91 points was never going to be easy for Ancelotti. Carletto has certainly put his stamp on his new side. Gone is Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation, replaced by Ancelotti’s favoured, flexible 4-4-2.

Napoli
ANCELOTTI’S NAPOLI SIDE ARE ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING IN EUROPE

Beyond his vigorous wins on the field, perhaps what makes his longevity stand out is his management skills. With his name on both the lists, his strategy has been not to be at the right time and right place as his detractors tell but to make the best out of what or rather who is available to him.

To have Ancelotti as the coach, it has pretty much always guaranteed success. The criss-cross of the finest footballer and a finer manager, Ancelotti has earned not only a badge of success to his credit but an honour of legacy to outwit everyone who dare come close to his shining throne.

BY SHIPRA KAPOOR