Real Madrid’s sacking of Carlo Ancelotti lacks logic, I prefer the Barcelona model

In this week's column for The National, Diego Forlan offers his opinion on the managerial merry-go-round at Real Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti had the backing of the players until his final days as Real Madrid manager. Javier Soriano / AFP
Carlo Ancelotti had the backing of the players until his final days as Real Madrid manager. Javier Soriano / AFP

Real Madrid always do things which appear to have no logic. That’s what Madrid do. They sack managers when they’ve won the European Cup, they sell some of their best players at their peak.

This week they sacked Carlo Ancelotti, just five months after his team was crowned world champions and less than a year after he won the decima, the 10th European Cup they tried to win for 12 years.

Everyone shakes their heads at Madrid, but everyone pays attention to the club at the same time. Madrid is always the story, this big machine dominating the media.

I couldn’t understand why they sold Angel di Maria last August. He was one of their best players of recent seasons and hugely popular with players and fans. They really missed him this season, and I’m sure the semi-final against Juventus would have been different with Di Maria creating chances, beating players and running from the midfield.

They needed him as the link between the midfield and the attackers, someone to get at the Juventus defence. He’s not like Lionel Messi, but he’s quick, he gets the ball and he beats players. He can change a game with his goals and assists.

Instead, Di Maria was struggling at Manchester United at a great club with a coach who isn’t keen on South American players. Juan Riquelme barely got a chance at Barcelona under Louis van Gaal and while Di Maria has had chances this season, he joined a club in transition.

His move was made harder by not being able to speak to the language, the different style of football and by human factors that affect people. Footballers are not robots who can just settled instantly in a new country.

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Ancelotti is experienced, speaks many languages and is wise. He could settle in most places and won’t be short of offers. He’s a fine coach and he was a success at Madrid, a club who couldn’t get beyond the last eight in the Uefa Champions League for eight years, including while I was in Spain.

The Italian was popular with the players and the fans at Madrid. That’s why he was sacked at the end of the season, because it would have brought protests mid-season.

Now, people will digest the news, they’ll go on holiday, they’ll calm down and then they’ll return with enthusiasm for the new coach. And he’ll lose his job in a year if Madrid don’t win anything.

The players will do their best for their coach, and every player has been at a club where a popular manager has been sacked. I was at Atletico Madrid when Javier Aguirre, a really nice guy, lost his job. I didn’t agree with the decision, but it wasn’t my decision as I was only a player. I only felt bad because I wanted to help him get better results.

The players know it’s going to be like that at Madrid, where there’s no patience like you’ll get in England, so why do players go to Madrid?

First, it’s Real Madrid, the most successful club of all time, a club who can pay more than almost anyone else. And second, because it’s a huge challenge and football people like challenges.

They see others fail at Madrid and think ‘maybe I have what it takes to succeed at Madrid’. So they test themselves and some do succeed, though, like with Di Maria, that’s no guarantee they won’t be sold.

Players become used to the culture of the club, where the team are heralded as the best in the world when they win and the worst when they lose.

Players also move in and out in bigger numbers than at other clubs. Again, that’s Madrid dominating the news.

I prefer the Barcelona model. They promote youth, but while they sack managers, they keep the core of their team. It’s more stable. Barca can win the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Saturday, their second trophy of the season.

A third can be won with the Champions League next Saturday against Juventus.

But Spain has already won the first European trophy of the season with Sevilla’s success in the Europa League in Warsaw. Spanish clubs have won more Uefa Cup/Europa League and Champions League titles than English, Italian, German and Dutch teams combined so far this century. It’s incredible, but they’re simply technically superior.

Sevilla have been a big success. They’re aggressive, they play good football, they defend well, they create a lot of chances. They’re like all the top Spanish teams then, and while the English sides are physically stronger, the Spanish teams have better ball players. They also win trophies.

I think the Europa League is an excellent competition. It’s not as important as the Champions League, but it’s still really good where you play strong teams and then you play the winner of the Champions League in the Super Cup each August. And now, you also get to play in the Champions League if you win the Europa League.

It’s a competition worth winning, and if some English teams think that it’s not worth winning, that’s their problem.

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Published: May 28, 2015 04:00 AM

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