Having been caught in a deluge of mockery that poured forth from his own players, Carlo Ancelotti now finds himself unemployed. Lord Eyebrow lasted just 15 months of his three-year contract at Bayern, cut loose as a result of what may or may not have been an insidious soft coup led by disgruntled members of his playing staff.
And yet, phlegmatic to the core, Don Carlo doesn’t seem particularly worried by this enforced redundancy. He took it with the stoicism of a man who, actually, isn’t particularly worried about anything at all – which, perhaps, is part of the reason for his departure.
Long has Ancelotti’s laissez-faire approach to management been hailed as a factor in his famed ability to manage the egos and vanities of his more ‘high-maintenance’ players. As a coach, he’s always been a master of indulgence, a humanity-guru who understands the need to embrace the self-absorption of the megastar footballer. And, more often than not, it worked out.
Prior to Bayern, he unified a disparate horde of megalomaniacs at Real Madrid so successfully that in 2014 they ended up winning a first Champions League title since 2002. When Ancelotti took over at the Bernabeu, this generation of Merengues was far from the well-oiled machine that now dominates European football, and his avuncular cosseting was a huge factor in their transition from petulant, tantrum-throwing also-rans to metronomic, perennial champions.
In fact, much of the logic behind Florentino Perez hiring Carlo for the Madrid job in the first place was that he’d done something comparable in the preceding years at PSG and Chelsea. He stabilised the English side after a chaotic four-year period in which they’d sacked more managers than won trophies, and led the Blues to a league and cup double in his first season.
Similarly, he was brought to Paris with the brief of being the big-name coach capable of handling the myriad big-name stars arriving on the back of the unveiling of the club’s shiny new petrodollar era. By the end of his first full season in charge, he’d led PSG’s tempestuous mercenaries to their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years.
For almost a decade now, Ancelotti has been a man with a reputation as something of a star-herder. The wrangler to whom you turn when you gather a flock of unpredictable prodigies and suddenly realise that they rarely listen to anything other than their own internal monologue.
The Italian’s famed man-management is characterised by his ability to simply let pampered narcissists be pampered narcissists. His tactical instruction is often minimal, his personality indulgent and his interference in the lives of these millionaire men-children almost non-existent.
For the most part, they loved him for it.
But, from the start, things were different at Bayern. The lovable slacker shtick held no value at a club that had become used to the obsessive-compulsive attention to detail of the team’s previous manager, the preternaturally neurotic Pep Guardiola.
The likes of Ribery, Robben and Lewandowski had grown accustomed to being told what to do in minute, intricate detail. Under Pep, there was no situation for which they were unprepared; no scenario they could face that the Catalan hadn’t already envisaged and provided a twelve-page dossier on how to approach.
Rumours abound of ‘secret training sessions’ towards the end of Ancelotti’s reign in Munich, and it seems as if there was genuine discontent among several of Bayern’s big names. Whether or not this is accurate, they certainly looked a disorganised, demoralised rabble on the pitch over the past few months; a team without either drive or direction.
So it came as no surprise when it was announced that Ancelotti would be leaving for, presumably, a sun-kissed sabbatical during which many many cigarettes will be smoked and chiantis sipped. According to the man himself, he won’t be back in football for at least ten months.
Don Carlo’s niche reputation as the go-to Uncle-for-Hire for the oligarch set appears to be in tatters, but it may simply be a case of right man, wrong time.