Real Madrid sack Carlo Ancelotti - Perez confirms

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Ancelotti loses his job after two years at Real.

Real Madrid have fired their coach Carlo Ancelotti, confirms club president Florentino Perez, making the popular Italian pay for a disappointing season without a major trophy.

– YAYA: Staying at Man City
– LA LIGA Reflections on the contrasting fortunes of the season’s final day
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“The board of directors has taken the decision this afternoon to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his duties as coach of Real Madrid,” Perez told a news conference at the club’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

“It has been a very hard decision… but Real Madrid is extremely demanding and we believe it is time to give a new impulse” to the club.

The former AC Milan and Chelsea coach leaves Madrid after just two years in the job having failed to convert a record run of victories last year into silverware at the end of this season.

Madrid had won the Club World Cup on a streak of 22 consecutive wins between September and December to add to the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup in a record four-trophy haul in 2014.

But they were beaten to the Spanish league title by a treble-seeking Barcelona and eliminated by city rivals Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

Ancelotti’s last chance of keeping his job was ended when one of his former clubs, Juventus, knocked Real out of the Champions League earlier this month to progress to the final.

That was too much for the club’s management, despite Ancelotti’s popularity with fans and players.

Media have reported that Napoli’s Spanish coach Rafael Benitez is the favourite to replace him.

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La Liga: Reflections on contrasting fortunes of season's final day

Phil Ball 25/05/2015
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Champions: FC Barcelona.

On the Madrid metro on Sunday morning you couldn’t really escape the country’s economic recession if you’d wanted to – on a morning when Spain was being asked to shake off the hangover of the end of the league programme the previous night and then vote in important regional and municipal elections.

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I’d flown down on Saturday with my son to see the Rayo Vallecano v Real Sociedad curtain-downer, a game on which nothing was hanging but a ground that my son had always wanted to visit. It didn’t disappoint, but back to the metro. 

A procession of individuals passed through the train every few minutes making extraordinary speeches to the people seated, begging for money amid graphic and desperate descriptions of their lives. As any one of them slowly approached, people shuffled uncomfortably, looked at their feet, at their mobile phones, their newspapers – anything to avoid eye contact with the metro-surfing speech-makers.   

It’s always difficult when you come up against something face to face. If it’s not there in front of you it doesn’t matter, it ceases to be your immediate concern.  Where is this all leading?  Well – it just reminded me, during a heavily-charged weekend of football, that it’s easy to forget about the fate of relegated teams when you’re comfortably off yourself, warm in the after-glow of your own success.

Valencia celebrate as Almeria toil.

Without wishing to cheapen people’s personal tragedies with an unnecessary metaphor, it was nevertheless an extraordinary end to the La Liga season, in which the annual triumphs and tragedies were played out in their inevitably parallel fashion. Someone has to win the league, get into the Champions, and three teams have to go down. 

On the day when people celebrate in ecstasy, others trudge back to the dressing-room in a state of near agony.  It’s the nature of sport, and long may it continue, but the manner in which both Almería and Eibar dropped into the Second Division does raise some concerns. 

To return to the metro metaphor, the rich aristocrats Barcelona  were 2-0 and cruising at home to Deportivo, the beggars on the train.  Up in the Basque Country, Eibar were winning 3-0 at home to relegated Cordoba and had collected enough euros from the passengers to eat for another day.

But in the 66th and the 75th minute, Deportivo took advantage of the fact that their hosts were more focused on Xavi Hernandez’ imminent departure from the pitch, on the day of his league ‘adeu’, and scored twice, radically changing the immediate futures of two clubs in a stroke.

Deportivo needed the point as badly as Eibar (and Almería) needed them to lose. Xavi went off in the 85th minute, but five minutes before he did, Albert Lopo, Depor’s centre-back, asked Xavi to ‘go easy on us’ – to ensure that Barcelona took their foot off the pedal.  They did, and Deportivo miraculously escaped. Up north, with some resignation, Eibar learned that their fairy-tale was over.  

It isn’t Barcelona’s fault that Eibar have gone down, and the fate of a little community miles to the north-west was of little concern to them on a day of celebration and homage, but there was a game to play, and Deportivo were there in the flesh. 

Players are only human – and just as Atletico Madrid allowed Granada to draw in Los Carmenes and also avoid the drop (at the same time securing third place for themselves), it proves the metro point. In-your-face proximal suffering is hard to take. It affects you and it pricks your conscience in a way that distant suffering does not.

Eibar and Almería will take it on the chin because it’s true, as the cliché goes, that if you haven’t done your homework during the season, and you leave it all until the last night, the essay that you rush will probably earn you a fail. Such is the madness of the last game here in Spain, season after season, that if you go into it hoping for fate to be kind, then it just might not be, and you only have yourself to blame. 

And Deportivo could easily point to the lack of professionalism shown by already-relegated Cordoba, Eibar’s opponents on the day. Whereas Almería were always likely to struggle against a pumped-up Valencia, Cordoba took a mere eleven full-time professionals all the way to Eibar by bus (the other teams in the relegation struggle protested to the league authorities) and included three players from the youth team, two of whom eventually played. Unsurprisingly, Eibar won 3-0.

However, none of this should detract from what has once again been a wonderful season in La Liga, a topsy-turvy campaign that returned the usual two protagonists to centre-stage after Atlético’s feats last season, but which impressed by dint of its quality and the über-human feats of Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and company.

Xavi was feted at Camp Nou.

Xavi Hernandez leaves the stage, but the legacy of his sheer will-to-win brilliance will live on, and of course, he can still add another two trophies to his medal haul of 25, a haul that has made him the most decorated Spanish player in history. The best? Probably, yes. 

Barcelona’s greatest team and the national side’s most golden era coincided with his emergence. There were other great players around too, but Xavi was the fulcrum, the brush that spread the glue. He was the type of player that Real Madrid never really found.  Not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing of players, he simply never gave the ball away. 

It sounds like a dumb statement of homage, but there was a point in a game against Valencia, at the height of tiki-taka mania, where Xavi spun around, in that characteristic directional change that he had so perfected, and played a ball to Dani Alves that was slightly too far in front of the Brazilian. The ball sped out of play, and Alves looked almost dumfounded by the mistake. 

Xavi, as if appalled by this single lapse in fourteen seasons, remonstrated with Alves, then with himself, then with the grass. It was as if his world had collapsed about him in ruins. One misplaced pass! It barely happened again.

Xavi was a minimalist painter, but he took the genre to such heights of perfection that one can only conclude that he was an exception, a player so spookily disciplined that he almost always made the right decision.  It’s a skill that’s impossible to coach.  Now he’s decided to go, and that’s probably right too, before he inevitably declines.  It will be interesting, nevertheless, to see what part he plays in next week’s King’s Cup Final (happily for him at the Camp Nou)and then in the Champions final against Juventus.  

Meanwhile, over at the White House, Carlo Ancelotti appears to have become the latest victim of Florentino Pérez’ house of cards.  If the rumours are confirmed, the Italian will be Perez’ ninth victim since he took over the reins at the Bernabéu in the year of the millennium. 

He had a three-year sabbatical between 2006 and 2009 but his permanent search for the perfect coach is becoming more absurd, more Sisyphus-like every year – rolling the boulder up the hill but always seeing it roll down again.  It’s become a situation of in-built incoherence, and Pérez, like a slightly deranged emperor, surrounds himself with a smaller coterie of people each year, presumably because he would prefer not to hear the truth.

Even Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted something on Sunday to this effect, saying that he was hoping he could work with Ancelotti again next season.  Ronaldo, fresh from another hat-trick in the bizarre 7-3 win over Getafe (that’s 48 league goals for the season, and 61 in total) knows that his word has some weight, and the tweet was a deliberate message in Pérez´ direction. 

Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez appears to be well-placed, but the public prefer Jurgen Klopp, in the event that the present incumbent is shown the door. Klopp seems to be on Liverpool’s agenda too, but responded to a journalist’s question on Sunday about whether he spoke Spanish by replying ‘Una cerveza por favor’ (a beer please) in a pretty decent accent. Well actually the beer’s better in Liverpool, but he doesn’t need to know that yet. 

The two European finals will again feature Spanish clubs (Sevilla and Barcelona), with both sides favourites to win. In the Second Division, Betis’ 3-0 at home to Alcorcon means that they are back in the top flight, a mere season after going down, whilst down in the Second Division ‘B’ 30,000 spectators, amongst them major shareholder Carlos Slim, saw Oviedo draw 1-1 with Cadiz, another ex-top flight side fallen on harder times.

And down in the Madrid neighbourhood of Vallecas, where David Moyes’ Real Sociedad won 4-2 against Rayo Vallecano on a final day of astonishing friendliness and model behaviour for a hosting football team, an elderly gentleman stopped us on the way out, for no apparent reason other than the fact that he’d identified us as outsiders and wanted to tell us. 

“I’ve been a paid-up member of this club for 59 years” he announced, through broken teeth. “It’s fantastic.  It’s the best team in the world!” He meant it too, even though they’d just lost 2-4 at home and were selling their top scorer, Alberto Bueno, to Oporto. Happy with their lot, with a team that totally identifies with the local scene, they must wonder just what all the fuss is about over in the Bernabéu.  

Every season I think I’ll fall out with football, but I never do, largely because places like Rayo Vallecano, Oviedo and Eibar keep me going. It can be wonderful at the top too, but that football only exists because of the solidity of the bases below. 

On a day when some were  toasting their success and counting the luverly money, others were searching desperately for the sticking plasters. They’ll find them. They usually do. 

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#360debate: Should Ancelotti be sacked as Real Madrid coach?

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Under fire: Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti.

 Real Madrid’s season may have finished on a seven-goal high this weekend, but the post-Christmas slump which saw the club lose control of La Liga to Barcelona and exit the Champions League to Juventus is the real story of recent weeks.

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President Florentino Perez is notoriously trigger-happy and pressure is mounting on head coach Carlo Ancelotti, with the Italian having failed to win the league title in two attempts with the Spanish giants.

A Champions League triumph in his first season would be enough to ensure long-term safety at many clubs, but this is Perez and Real Madrid.

Our #360debate today is: Should Carlo Ancelotti be sacked as Real Madrid head coach?

James Piercy, Deputy Editor, thinks YES.

Carlo Ancelotti is a gentleman and deserves more respect than he has been afforded by Florentino Perez, however the fact remains he has failed at Real Madrid.

Yes, there was the Copa del Rey and Champions League title last term but Real were just over a minute away from a 1-0 defeat in the latter, which would have cost Ancelotti his job 12 months ago.

The fact they won it, rather flatteringly in extra-time, merely prolonged the Italian’s existence in the Bernabeu dugout as it was evident then he wasn’t the right fit.

Ancelotti has come under much pressure this season.

Last season was a huge missed opportunity; Barcelona were average at best under Tata Martino and while Atletico Madrid’s title triumph was a remarkable feat, Real could and should have won it with the resources they had.

They were probably a better, certainly more balanced, side than this season. Nobody in Spain could have had any complaints that Atletico were worthy winners and that, in itself, speaks volumes of Madrid’s season. Martino, whose Barcelona finished on 87 points with Real, wasn’t given a second chance

But having been saved by the Champions League, Ancelotti was given €130m (Dh525m) worth of new players and again couldn’t do the job.

There are underlying issues in amongst all this, most notably how much Perez’s meddling in the market has undermined his manager. But Ancelotti, as he himself admits, knows what’s expected.

If he can’t operate with Perez’s scattergun transfer policy or try and provide opposition to it, there isn’t much point in sticking around.

He remains popular in the dressing room but notably he has been unable to coax consistent seasons out of Gareth Bale, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal, three younger players who have gone backwards.

His unwavering faith in Iker Casillas, while the World Cup’s best goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, sat on the bench, cost them points and his constant overlooking of Sami Khedira when Madrid were crying out for greater midfield stability is baffling.

There has been no development from last year, and it would be fruitless for the impatient Perez to afford him a third chance. 

Andy West, La Liga correspondent, thinks NO.

Even for a man as notoriously impatient as Madrid president Florentino Perez, sacking Carlo Ancelotti would be a terribly short-sighted move.

It is true that Ancelotti’s season has not been perfect, with Real’s poor performances in several big games – such as their Champions League semi-final with Juventus and a woeful La Liga thrashing against Atletico Madrid – falling well short of expected standards.

But there were extenuating circumstances, not the least of which was a string of injuries to key players – especially Luka Modric, whose absence for much of the season deprived the team of its chief link between midfield and attack.

It should not be forgotten that Ancelotti spent the autumn leading Madrid to a new Spanish record of 22 straight victories, finishing 2014 with victory in the FIFA Club World Cup to become the first manager in the club’s history to win four trophies in a calendar year.

The prospect of dumping the coach who masterminded those triumphs just a few months later is patently ridiculous and, rather than lapsing into such an overreaction, Perez needs to realise that his ‘Galacticos’ transfer strategy, which routinely recruits unnecessary players while ignoring more pressing needs, is the biggest obstacle to sustained success for Real Madrid.

Perez, indeed, only has to look within his own organisation to discover an example of how to build a successful squad.

In 2013 and 2014, Madrid’s basketball team fell agonisingly short of winning their most important trophy, suffering defeat in consecutive Euroleague finals.

Rather than axing coach Pablo Laso and foisting a batch of glamorous but unneeded new signings upon the team, Perez left the club’s basketball section in peace to make their own changes.

Laso stayed, recruited a string of unheralded but hard-nosed new players to toughen up his team, and was duly rewarded with a convincing triumph in last weekend’s Euroleague final against Olympiacos.

Perez should learn from the lesson of the basketball team, leave Ancelotti in place and give the coach the unhindered ability to make all recruitment decisions.

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