Carlo Ancelotti has had measure of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool over the years as Everton seek to end dismal record against rivals
Italian has a remarkable record against the Anfield club and their manager
It was a typically quotable compliment from Jurgen Klopp. “He is obviously a smart fox,” said the Liverpool manager 15 months ago. Carlo Ancelotti has been called many things – a triple Champions League winner and an all-time great among them – but the Italian has justified Klopp’s description.
Exclude penalty shootouts and only one manger has tasted victory twice against Klopp in a golden season and a half: Ancelotti. His Napoli felt almost immune to Liverpool’s excellence, making a potentially era-shaping side look distinctly ordinary in three of four meetings.
Liverpool were defeated at the San Paolo in consecutive autumns. Napoli got a draw at Anfield this season; but for a remarkable save from Alisson to deny Arkadiusz Milik, they would have done last season as well. But for that stop, Liverpool would not be Champions League winners now.
Everton’s new manager arrived with the sort of pedigree to appeal to a club who have not triumphed at Anfield since 1999 or beaten Liverpool anywhere since 2010. Ancelotti is in a select band, including Ralf Rangnick and Felix Magath, who have won more than they have lost against Klopp.
He has defeated Liverpool seven times with four different clubs. At his unveiling at Goodison Park, he smiled that Liverpool supporters “are worried to see me because I beat them a lot of times.”
He has had a career of such magnitude that he has not been defined by his most famous defeat to them. A lesser manager would have been.
“A six-minute blackout,” Ancelotti wrote in his autobiography of events in Istanbul when AC Milan lost a 3-0 lead in the Champions League final to a Steven Gerrard-inspired Liverpool. “We were our own worst nightmare. The world turned upside down. I was paralysed … I was baffled; nothing made sense.”
Ancelotti has never watched the 2005 Champions League final back; he did win the 2007 counterpart, and at Liverpool’s expense. “It was too beautiful to take revenge for Istanbul,” Ancelotti subsequently said.
Theirs is a history that dates back 35 years; Ancelotti was sidelined when his Roma teammates lost the 1984 European Cup final to Liverpool on their home ground. He remains the last visiting manager to win a European game at Anfield, though Real Madrid’s 3-0 triumph came back in 2014. Earlier that year, he had eliminated Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals en route to winning yet another Champions League.
No wonder, then, that Klopp said in November: “If there is any manager in the world who does not need advice from me, it is Carlo Ancelotti.” The Italian’s response was eloquent. “He is one of the few people I would accept advice from, absolutely.”
On Friday, the ever popular Ancelotti said: “Jurgen is my friend.” Klopp responded by calling his counterpart: “One of the smartest people I have met.” Theirs is a mutual admiration society from men who are part of an exclusive group. Liverpool is the world’s only footballing city where both managers are Champions League winners.
Ancelotti, indeed, could have been in the home dugout on Sunday. He and Klopp were the two major contenders to replace Brendan Rodgers in 2015. It is safe to say Liverpool made the correct choice.
Ancelotti has been the manager who can massage superstars’ egos, coaxing successful sides to more triumphs. Klopp is the more dynamic, more transformative figure.
If Klopp emulated Ancelotti in June when he won his first Champions League, now the Italian’s task at Goodison Park is to mimic the German by reviving and reinventing a Merseyside club labouring under the shadow of its glorious past. But first he has to imitate Walter Smith, the last Everton manager to taste victory at Anfield.
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Updated: January 5, 2020 07:39 AM