Ancelotti’s League, the coach who does nothing and invented Bellingham | Soccer | Sports

This League number 36 for Real Madrid, the third in five years, is an author’s creation. From an author who has gone through a good part of his successful career with the consideration of an invisible author, often seen as a somewhat secondary figure, rather a piece of emotional value. However, now on his way to 65 years old, which he will turn on June 10, Carlo Ancelotti has delivered one of his most complex creations in a context of limited personnel and with a first section of the course developed under the uncertainty of his future, always close to turning towards the Brazil bench.

Last Monday, the eve of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich, he allowed himself one of his delicate gestures of vindication. Three games away from another European Cup and with the League already packed, the Italian defined his performance, between fine self-parody and the dart to those who are dazzled by the sophistication of other colleagues: “I have a very clear idea about our role. There are two types of trainers: those who do nothing and those who do a lot of damage. So, I try to be in the first (group), the one of those who do nothing.”

That same afternoon he also left a clearer claim: “Few thought I could do this press conference.” The phrase summed up the spirit of the journey, with curves months before the start of this 36th League.

Madrid announced on June 4 of last year that Karim Benzema was leaving the club for Saudi Arabia, which left the team without a reference number nine who had won the Ballon d’Or just a few months before. Three days later, on June 7, Borussia Dortmund informed its shareholders that it had reached an agreement with Madrid to sell Jude Bellingham for 103 million euros plus a package of variables that could reach 30% of that amount. .

In the meetings that Ancelotti held those days with the club’s leadership, he expressed that he thought it was necessary to hire Harry Kane, about to turn 30, to replace Benzema, the team’s top scorer since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus. in 2018.

The club’s next move was to close the loan of Joselu as Mariano’s replacement. The 33-year-old youth player from La Fábrica had just debuted with Luis de la Fuente’s Spanish team in the same year that he had just been relegated with Espanyol. So much for operations up front. On August 12, Bayern Munich announced the hiring of Kane for more than 100 million euros, the most expensive signing in the history of the Bundesliga.

Zidane’s lesson

Ancelotti spent less time lamenting than searching for solutions with the tools he had at his disposal, that is, Bellingham, who ended up being the team’s top scorer in the League, with 18 goals. Like when he returned to Valdebebas in the summer of 2021 and they asked him what he was going to do to score more goals if they didn’t sign another forward. The answer was pure Carletto, apparent simplicity to wrap something very complex: “Benzema has to score 50 goals, instead of 30. Vinicius has to score more…”. Ancelotti brought the Brazilian closer to the Frenchman, and Benzema scored 44 and Vinicius went from six to 22, something unimaginable for almost any analyst.

That mastery of adapting what he has, and adapting too, comes from an old lesson from years ago that he remembered while on a summer tour in the United States: “When I started training I had a clear idea and I didn’t adapt to the players I had. I had an experience at Parma, where Baggio wanted to play as a midfielder and I didn’t change the system. He went to another team. And made a mistake. At Juventus, with Zidane, I began to understand that it is better to adapt to the players.”

When he publicly recovered that idea that he has referred to on many occasions, he had already been working on his latest creation for days: the reinvention of Jude Bellingham. In his last season at Dortmund, the Englishman was a midfielder, who played most of the time as an inside-right player. But Ancelotti, during his process of searching for goals among the troops he had, detected an exceptional quality in the videos he reviewed of the Englishman: “What we noticed in the games he played with Dortmund is that he had the ability to reach goals. time to the rival area and be dangerous,” explained the Italian.

That is why Madrid began the preseason with a new system around a diamond in the center of the field, with Bellingham at the top and Vinicius and Rodrygo up front. The first tests were not perfect. The new structure presented weaknesses on the flanks when defending. So Ancelotti began to refine the proposal, and the diamond transformed into a 4-4-2 in defense, with the Englishman covering the left wing.

The invention also had to withstand the impact of Vinicius’ two muscle injuries in 2023, which left him out for 11 games. In those difficult months without the Brazilian, Bellingham supported the team with 17 goals in all competitions. The previous entire season, his best year, he had closed with 14. Ancelotti’s move caused astonishment even in the Englishman’s family: “We knew he was good, but we didn’t imagine he could be so good,” his father commented privately one day. match at the Bernabéu. Months later they asked the footballer if the Italian was the best coach he had ever had: “I think so. The mark of a good coach is that he is able to make you a little better than you thought you were.”

Ancelotti, in his line, has downplayed his importance. As if he really didn’t do anything: “He learns very quickly. It is not necessary to tell him things many times. We have shown him videos of when he played for Dortmund, of what we liked. He now makes many more movements without the ball to reach the rival area; In Germany he was more used to receiving between the lines.”

The Italian’s tactical discovery also had an impact on the English team, where Gareth Southgate was encouraged to also move him to the midfielder, with greater freedom. “It’s poetry,” former Chelsea and Liverpool footballer Joe Cole said on Channel 4, the first time he saw him play as a 10 for England. The footballer was also happy with the discovery: “I really enjoyed playing in that position,” he said after playing there at Hampden Park. “That role of freedom.”

However, that was not the end of Bellingham’s journey. As the season progressed, Vinicius returned and began to score, and tougher rivals appeared on the horizon, Ancelotti assigned the Englishman an essential part of the defensive system, the beginning and direction of the pressure. He had already wasted effort on these tasks throughout the course, but he put in a special effort in the Champions League quarterfinal tie against City. No player performed more high-intensity pressing than him in the quarterfinal matches.

There was the star of the course in a limit delivery exercise. The other day in Munich, although in a general way, Ancelotti also left a reference to this: “There is quality, but not only: there is attitude, commitment. What a coach can do is make the players understand well what teamwork is, because we have the quality, Bayern has it, PSG has it… Where is the difference? Where do you want to put this quality. If you want to put it in for yourself, this is not right. If you score for the team, you can win.”

Before winning the League, Ancelotti won over the players, and the board, who announced the extension of his contract until 2026 on the morning of December 29, just two and a half days before he could negotiate another job, with Brazil very interested. publicly for this summer’s Copa América and the 2026 World Cup.

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