Carlo Ancelotti sparkles as he offers sly reminder of Real Madrid’s quality | Real Madrid

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Carlo Ancelotti sparkles as he offers sly reminder of Real Madrid’s quality | Real Madrid

Real Madrid

Before Chelsea’s visit, the manager smoothly sends a message to the doubters who put last season’s triumph down to luck

Carlo Ancelotti had finished talking, or at least that’s what everyone thought, and Real Madrid’s press officer had started wrapping up the final news conference before facing Chelsea when the coach suddenly stopped him. In those three seconds of silence, everything that needed to be said seemingly said, he decided that actually he was going to add something after all. It had clearly been on his mind, and now it came out: a reminder that shouldn’t have been needed of everything he and they have won, the enormity of it all.

Responding to the last question, Ancelotti had been talking about his squad, a group of players who know when to have a laugh and when to get down to work. “For a coach, for me, handling this squad is very simple: the human management is good,” he concluded. To his right, press officer Juan Camilo started to say “thank you so much” to the gathered journalists only for Ancelotti to leap back in. “Wait,” he interrupted. And then he said it.

“Everyone recognises that I am ‘fantastic’ in man-management, but there are other things,” the Italian insisted, hands accompanying the “fantastic” with an almost theatrical flourish before slowing to make his point. “This. Team. Is. Well. Worked. Because if we have the good fortune to win the Copa del Rey this season, this team will have won every trophy possible in two years. There are some teams that do not win that in a lifetime. There, I’ve said it. All the best, bye.” And with that he got up and exited stage left, everyone laughing.

It had been done smoothly and with a gentle charm, a little sparkle in his eye, the way Ancelotti does most things. But there was something direct about it too: entirely deliberate, a flash of pride.

‘Be back? No’: Ancelotti laughs off Chelsea return and backs Lampard – video

There had been a moment near the start when Ancelotti mentioned, in passing but pointedly, that Madrid deserved to win last year’s Champions League. Asked later whether the way many responded to that success, with its collection of absurd comebacks, had been unfair, he replied that “if you come back it is because you have more”, insisted they had performed poorly only at Paris Saint-Germain, noted that “the great coach (Vujadin) Boskov said the game’s not over until the referee blows”, and said “we deserved it last year and we will try to deserve it this year”. And now there was this, a third opportunity to state his case.

Ancelotti was right: if Madrid win the Copa del Rey, the final of which they reached last week, it would complete the set: from January last year to May this year, they would have won the league, the cup, the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the Champions League.

No coach has won as many Champions Leagues and only Ancelotti has claimed all of the top five European leagues, but it sometimes seems there is a reluctance to place him among truly elite managers, still less see him as a grand philosopher, thinker or revolutionary. The way it happened last season meant many talked of luck, Ancelotti is aware that “good man-manager” often comes as a backhanded compliment, and he knows that some have pointed at his players, the clubs he coached, and suggested: well, of course.

Vinícius Júnior (above) and Karim Benzema during the 4-0 win at Barcelona which put Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final. Photograph: Pedro Castillo/Real Madrid/Getty Images

He knows that kind of discourse doesn’t just come from outside either, and context for these comments comes from the offer he has to take over Brazil’s national team, an opportunity he would welcome. He has talked about how he will continue at the Bernabéu – if Madrid tell him they want him. He says so suspecting they may not be entirely convinced he should, maybe even that they never were. Ancelotti’s return was almost an accident after a chance conversation in which the Madrid director general complained there were no coaches out there, leading Ancelotti to slip in a brilliant and telling line: “Have you forgotten about the 10th (European Cup)?”

He had delivered thatgetting sacked the following season. Last season he delivered their 14th. A second European Cup in the second year of his second spell – Ancelotti’s third here, his fifth overall – is the target, the Madrid coach telling Paolo Maldini he would see him at the final in Istanbul. It is not a place of good memories, he admitted, but the date works: 10 June is his 64th birthday and he would love to spend it with his former captain at Milan.

That would mean getting past Chelsea, another club where Ancelotti won – in this case, a league and cup double – and the team against whom he admits he “suffered” the most last season. After Madrid came from 3-0 down at the Bernabéu to find a way through, the exhausted manager said: “If I didn’t die today I am immortal.”

If this year is different and Ancelotti says he is “sad” to see Chelsea struggle, he insisted that neither his extra experience – “Frank is lucky, he is 20 years younger than me” – nor the situation the clubs are in means anything. “They are not having a good time,” he said, “but sometimes it is these kinds of games, where the motivation is so great, that bring the best out of players and the individuals they have are of a very, very high level. Lampard was a great player who I was lucky to coach for two years. A fantastic, extraordinary professional, he knows what can happen in these games, how to prepare a team. For sure, he will do well in the time he is at Chelsea.”

And then what? Asked whether he would consider another return, this time to Chelsea, the most successful coach in European history laughed. “Be back?” he said. “I hope Lampard is able to do a great job for them.”

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