Carlo Ancelotti seems set to be the first manager to win all of Europe’s major five leagues. With Real Madrid soaring atop La Liga, the Spanish title looks about ready to enter the Italian’s CV and complete the set. So, why isn’t Ancelotti more respected in the managerial game?

Throw in the fact he’s also one of only three men to win the Champions League or European Cup on three occasions too and, frankly, no other manager can match his continent-wide achievements.

Still, it’s hard to view Carlo Ancelotti in the same way one does Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or even Jose Mourinho.

Of course, perception shouldn’t really matter when looking at cold, hard facts. Proving able to win every major league is a testament to Ancelotti’s ability to translate his methods across divisions, cultures and playing styles.

Twenty-six years as a manager of the world’s leading clubs, however, should really have yielded much more in terms of league success. The modern age might put more emphasis on the celebrity of the Champions League but it is in the relentlessness of domestic competition where more meaningful conclusions can be drawn. That is why the goalscoring exploits of both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are regarded in a higher degree to those of the legendary Pele, for example.

Four league wins just doesn’t seem enough. That’s not to downplay any of the leagues Carlo Ancelotti has lifted, it’s just that his trophy cabinet should be much more plentiful. AC Milan were the glory team of Italian football during much of his time there yet they lifted the Serie A title only once.

Indeed, while their dramatic loss to Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League is often either played off as a heroic comeback or a freak loss, it was indicative of how Ancelotti teams have had – at their worst – failed to see things out. There simply isn’t the inherent obsession to win we see etched on the wrinkled faces of other leading managers in the game.

That lack of intensity and drive was also part of the reasons things went so sourly at Bayern Munich. Though they did win the Bundesliga at a canter – 15 points ahead of RB Leipzig – there were suggestions that some star Bayern players had opted to undertake their own training sessions after his sessions, such was their yearning for more in the way of top level testing.

Though it must be noted that he only took the Paris Saint-Germain job in December 2011, not winning the Ligue 1 title in his first season at the expense of Montpellier doesn’t exactly cover him in glory.

To criticise Carlo Ancelotti for not having completely changed the tactical in the same way Guardiola or Arrigo Sacchi did would be unfair. Not every band can have the kind of world-altering impact of The Beatles, after all.

What is a criticism, though, is how relatively little he’s maximised what has been available to him. Madrid are flying at the moment but this is a year in which Barcelona have imploded both on and off the pitch while Atletico Madrid have already achieved all they realistically can do in winning La Liga last season.

Perhaps all of this is okay. Not everybody has to be on the level of Johan Cruyff. If they were, football would be much less accessible and probably attract few viewers around the world, looking more like 4D chess than anything else.

It’s merely an interesting quirk of a career not many in the history of football can match and a warning that trophies and trinkets quite simply do not always tell the whole story. Headlines make for the best reading but context is crucial. Carlo Ancelotti, despite his glittering CV, has so often been the beneficiary of the situation around him. Good work if you can get it.

 


 

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