Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti is a players’ coach, an approach that has him on brink of Champions League history

The quadruple is still alive as Paris prepares to host the Champions League final, but only when it comes to Carlo Ancelotti’s pursuit of a fourth European Cup. The Real Madrid coach can eclipse Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and his Madrid predecessor, Zinedine Zidane, by becoming the first to win four Champions Leagues as a manager if the LaLiga champions beat Liverpool in Stade de France on Saturday.

History awaits for Ancelotti, the 62-year-old Italian manager who also won two European Cups as a midfielder in Arrigo Sacchi’s great AC Milan side in 1989 and 1990, but there is no sense of personal legacy being a driving force for him this weekend.

“He couldn’t care less about the record books,” professor Chris Brady, who co-authored Quiet Leadership, Ancelotti’s book about management and coaching, told ESPN. “He knows about it, but he just shrugs his shoulders when you mention it to him. In Carlo’s mind, only one thing matters. When I ask him what his job is, he simply says, ‘to keep the president happy,’ and he has done that with Florentino Perez at Real, with Silvio Berlusconi at Milan and Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.

“It’s not about Carlo, and it never has been.”

The same applies this weekend in Paris. Here is a coach who has won as many European Cups as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp combined, more than Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Vicente del Bosque, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Johan Cruyff, But, despite standing on the verge of becoming the first to win it four times, the prematch build-up is centred not on Ancelotti but on Karim Benzema and Mohamed Salah, Luka Modric and Virgil van Dijk — the great players who will decide the outcome on the pitch.

There has always been something understated about Ancelotti despite his stellar record. Some coaches are all about their so-called “philosophy” or destiny — sometimes both — and every trophy won or lost is viewed through the lens of their own personal success or failure. In the meantime, Ancelotti wins a trophy, shrugs those shoulders and leaves it to the players and the president to take the plaudits, although he did celebrate Real’s LaLiga title this season by smoking a cigar on the team bus during the trophy parade — a photograph that went viral after Madrid’s dramatic Champions League semifinal fight back against Manchester City.

“No, I don’t smoke cigars!” Ancelotti said afterward. “It was only a photo with my friends and yes, these players are my friends.”

Ancelotti’s relationship with his players is perhaps what defines his coaching approach. When he was dismissed by Chelsea in 2011, less than a year after guiding the team to a Premier League and FA Cup double, a key factor in Abramovich’s decision to fire him was because the Russian owner believed that Ancelotti was not tough enough with his squad and too collegiate with his senior players.

Author: Lucy Green