- Carlo Ancelotti to be presented as Bayern coach on Monday.
- The Italian arrived in Munich last Thursday.
- Many of his former star players have sung Ancelotti's praises.
Italy and Spain have many similarities – the sun, the beach, the sea, good gourmet and wine. A passionate Mediterranean temperament is also a common characteristic – just look at former FC Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola. His Italian successor is another, even if he may manifest it in a different manner. Both share a love of football, but that is where the similarities end.
The transformation on the bench of the record German champions could otherwise not be much greater. On the one hand there is Guardiola: unapproachable, ascetic, discipline fanatic. Then there is Ancelotti: world-wise, aficionado, the nice guy from next door. But for as different the two coaches may be, their contrasting styles bring the same result: success. That is precisely why Bayern have found the perfect successor to Guardiola in Ancelotti, and his era will officially start on Monday.
Ancelotti landed in Munich last Thursday evening. Just an hour before kick-off in the EURO 2016 semi-final between Germany and France, he emerged from Terminal 1C of Munich airport, in casual attire, pushing a trolley carrying all his necessary belongings. Ancelotti appeared surprised to be greeted by a television crew, but he kept his cool. A friendly greeting followed his initial surprise, and even a few words in German to break the ice. "My German? Gut, aber schwer" Good, but difficult.
Moments later, he stepped into a black minibus and the 57-year-old was on his way, unmoved, epitomising the impression of himself he portrayed in his autobiography.
"My ass is earthquake-proof," he wrote there. On Monday, he can prove how well he can withstand the first earth movements in Munich when he is officially presented as Bayern's new coach. A new era is dawning in the Bavarian city and while the focus remains at its sharpest on the Bundesliga, few will be able to hide the expectation that Ancelotti can succeed where Guardiola could not: by bringing the UEFA Champions League title back to Munich.
The successful coach has "no fear" of the weight of expectation. That will hardly come as a surprise considering his previous clubs: AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain – almost an encyclopaedia entry of the world's biggest football clubs. He has no fear when it comes to the linguistic aspect either, with his hours and hours of German classes set to be put to the test on Monday, when he has promised to deliver his first press conference in the local lingo.
"Whether people understand me is another question," he said with a wry smile. Those who encountered him on Thursday certainly received his message, even if it was only a brief exchange. Nevertheless, it is the players who need to comprehend his commands, and that does not seem to have been an obstacle in the past. His blend of Italian, Spanish, French and English should be more than enough to get by. "The priority is to build up a coach-player relationship and be able to exchange ideas," he said.
This also differentiates him from his predecessor, who it is said did not build any particularly tight bonds with his players. He enjoyed the unreserved respect of his entire squad, without doubt, but he was only really admired and adored by a select few. He did not need more than that anyway, and his success speaks volumes. What Ancelotti strives for, however, is the exact opposite.
"The door to his office was always open and he always had time for you," said Germany international Sami Khedira, who played under Ancelotti at Real Madrid from 2013 to 2015. "He makes you feel you are part of his family," said Cristiano Ronaldo about his relationship with the ice-cream-loving Italian. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who does not have the reputation for being the easiest players to manage, once labelled Ancelotti "the best coach in the world". The Reggiolo-born coach certainly has a reputation to live up to.
While Guardiola put his philosophy on a mantle, above any individual, Ancelotti places each individual player in the foreground. Nevertheless, Ancelotti is not going to tear Guardiola's work to shreds and start from scratch. "Pep did a great job in Munich," he said. "I don't want to change too much". Instead, he aims to build on those solid foundations to create an even stronger, greater and more successful Bayern.
"Of course you're always expected to do even better than your last season and I have a lot of work to do," said Ancelotti, who has won European football's most important title twice as a player and three times as a coach. "I've got to try to better an already amazing season." To aid him, Mats Hummels has been brought in from Borussia Dortmund and Portuguese rising star Renato Sanches arrives from Benfica. No further additions are expected with Ancelotti acknowledging he already has a "fantastic squad" to work with.
A fantastic squad with another fantastic coach; a relaxed representative of the international top coach legion; a man who can read the game. With his left eyebrow raised, he oozes the authority of Don Corleone, from his favourite film The Godfather. "He's a big bear – a great guy," said Cristiano Ronaldo of his former coach, who in addition to working with some of the most talented footballers on the planet, has also had to deal with the demands and expectations of club bosses including Silvio Berlusconi, Roman Abramovich and Florentino Perez.
In Munich, he will be reporting to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has labelled him a "wise tactician." Having now arrived in Germany, Ancelotti is about to discover "how such a football club works." He is incredibly excited about getting to grips with his new job, a new country, a new league and new people. "I can hardly wait," he said. So cannot we.
Written by Dennis-Julian Gottschlich / SID, adapted by Ben Gladwell