Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti still in severe risk of being dismissed despite his club leading La Liga by 12 points and preparing for a Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea.
To comprehend the Italian’s precarious situation, one must consider the circumstances surrounding his entrance at the club last summer.
Real was in disarray after a trophy-less season, which was followed by the departure of legendary manager Zinedine Zidane, as well as captain Sergio Ramos and his central defensive partner Raphael Varane.
Florentino Perez, the club president, needed a safe pair of hands to lead the short-term mission of carefully steering the team out of rough waters.
Nobody matched the criteria better than Ancelotti, whose experience and easy-going demeanor made him the ideal candidate for restoring order.
He has clearly accomplished his goal. Real have taken advantage of Atletico Madrid’s inconsistent season, Barcelona’s poor start, and Sevilla’s lack of firepower to establish a seemingly impregnable position at the top of La Liga, putting Carlo Ancelotti on course to become the first manager in history to win the title in each of Europe’s big five leagues.
However, whether Ancelotti, who may be forced to watch the action from home after signing Covid last week, will be granted the chance to defend the title next season is a another thing.
Is it possible that history will repeat itself?
Real’s results have mostly outperformed their performances this season, with the squad relying too heavily on attacking creativity from Karim Benzema and goalkeeping heroics from Thibaut Courtois.
The former’s absence was most noticeable a few weeks ago, when Real was humiliated 4-0 at home by a resurgent Barcelona, who are already looking capable of making a real bid for all four trophies next season.
Ancelotti has been chastised throughout the season for his lack of ability to rotate his squad, consistently beginning with the same starting XI regardless of how well they are performing.
With Benzema out of the Clasico last month, Real’s lack of strategic variety was exposed to an alarming degree as Barca cruised to an unimaginably easy victory – and Ancelotti’s position was only weakened by a disastrous half-time tactical change that had to be abandoned two minutes after the restart when the visitors scored.
Rafael Benitez was sacked shortly after a 4-0 home defeat by Barcelona in 2015; Julen Lopetegui was ousted shortly after a 5-1 loss at the Nou Camp in 2018, and Santi Solari was fired a few months later after a 4-1 Champions League home defeat by Ajax.
The fact that Perez has already fired Carlo Ancelotti once, a year after winning the club’s 10th European Cup, strengthens the idea that he doesn’t completely trust him.
A humiliating 4-0 mid-season loss to Atletico Madrid was a big factor in turning Perez against the coach at the time.
It’s becoming more and more likely that history will repeat itself in the coming weeks, with only another Champions League title or a faultless league season anticipated to persuade Perez not to fire Ancelotti.
Who might possibly succeed Ancelotti?
So, if the Italian leaves (again), who will take his place?
Mauricio Pochettino, like Manchester United, has long been connected with a move to the Bernabeu, while Perez admires Bayern Munich’s Julian Nagelsmann, and Real veteran Raul is increasingly entering the frame following an outstanding term in charge of the club’s B team.
Regardless of who is in charge, there will be a period of transition. Long-serving stalwarts Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Dani Carvajal must be gradually replaced, while undesirable veterans Gareth Bale, Isco, and Marcelo will depart when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the season.
Fede Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga, who have been mainly ignored by Ancelotti’s insistence on starting with Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro whenever feasible, can help reinvigorate the midfield.
Kylian Mbappe, on the other hand, stands out the most in the background.
Next season, Real might look quite different
Real have done everything they can in recent years to entice French sensation Kylian Mbappe away from Paris Saint-Germain, and it appears that their long-running pursuit of him will finally bear fruit this summer.
Before he arrives, his coaching choices will very certainly be considered.
With Perez also targeting Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland, who is desperate to keep Real Madrid’s place among Europe’s elite despite the financial advantages of clubs like PSG and Manchester City, the starting XI for Real Madrid next season could look very different from what Ancelotti usually selects.
The figure in the dugout could, too.