PETE JENSON: Carlo Ancelotti is on course to be the first coach EVER to win all five big leagues after a perfect first six months back at Real Madrid to top LaLiga… and he’s outdone Zidane by getting the best out of Vinicius Jr and reviving Luka Jovic
- Carlo Ancelotti has quietly guided Real Madrid to the top of LaLiga this season
- He is on track to becoming the first coach to win a title in all five big leagues
- Ancelotti has helped Vinicius Jr thrive and Luka Jovic has improved too
Debates around who might be the greatest manager of all time rarely hone in on Carlo Ancelotti but the 62-year-old coach is already the only manager to have won league titles in four of Europe’s big five leagues and his hugely impressive start back at Real Madrid has him on course to make it a clean sweep of five out of five.
Ask Real Madrid supporters at the start of the season, which clubs they saw as their biggest rivals and they would probably have said Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona are currently 16 points behind Real Madrid, albeit with one game in hand. And if Real Madrid win the Madrid derby this weekend they will be 13 points clear of Diego Simeone’s team, albeit also having played a game more.
Carlo Ancelotti is on course to win a record fifth league title in as many European divisions
His Real Madrid side are top of LaLiga, eight clear of Sevilla and 16 points ahead of Barcelona
Sevilla are still in the rear view mirror but the eight-point gap (again having played a game more) is healthy and they have already beaten them once this season.
Ancelotti is too long in the tooth to be chilling champagne just yet but he has laid the foundations for a league-winning season. And after success in Italy with Milan, Germany with Bayern and France with PSG if he could add La Liga with Real Madrid to the Premier League he won with Chelsea in 2010 it would be a domestic achievement to match his three-times winner, Champions League exploits.
Madrid’s early season advantage owes something to Barcelona’s catastrophic start and to the malaise that hangs over Atletico Madrid, but it also owes a huge debt to Ancelotti who has taken the team to another level after inheriting it from Zinedine Zidane.
Saturday’s win over Real Sociedad was the perfect reminder of that. The goals came from Vinicius and Luka Jovic – two players who had been left behind during the Zidane era.
Vinicius Jr (back left) has come alive under the Italian, while Luka Jovic (left) has improved too
Jovic scored just twice in his first season at Madrid and when he got no goals in the first half of the next campaign he went back on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt where he scored four in eight starts.
This season he is yet to start under Ancelotti but the coach has told him that he has no intention of sanctioning another loan. He wants him to be participate more this season and at the weekend when Karim Benzema went off early it was the Serbian he turned to and not Eden Hazard who might have got the nod had Zidane still been in charge. His assist for Vinicius goal was superb and so was his movement and execution shortly after when he scored his first goal of the season.
Vincius meanwhile is emerging as an albeit very early candidate for next season’s Ballon d’Or. Ten goals in 16 games is first and foremost to his credit but Ancelotti made a very simple change to the way the Brazilian was treated at the club when he turned up.
The Brazilian could be a contender for next year’s Ballon d’Or after 10 goals in 16 matches
He made it clear that Vinicius would no longer be the player hauled off after 75 minutes when things were not going well. That early substitution that used to deny Vinicius a chance, week after week, to tread the fertile ground of the last 15 minutes of games when defences are tired and gaps are appearing helped keep his goal count down.
The confidence born from knowing that he will not be taken off has produced goals, and those goals have produced even more confidence. It’s a snowball effect that has rolled the Benzema-Vinicius unlikely double act to the top of the scoring charts in Spain.
Ancelotti has also overseen the establishment of a new central defensive partnership that has, so far, made the Sergio Ramos-Raphael Varane pairing a distant memory. David Alaba and Eder Militao have been, at the back for Real Madrid, what Benzema and Vincius have been in attack.
The former Everton boss has also tightened up his defence with David Alaba and Eder Militao
It’s still early days and Los Blancos will need to make signings but Madrid have the advantage
Ancelotti chopped and changed in defence early on but he soon spotted how the Brazilian defender and his new Austrian partner would benefit from an almost unbroken spell of playing together in the heart of the Madrid defence.
There is a long way to go in the Spanish title race Sevilla have shown signs of a durability that will stand them in good stead for the business end of the campaign. Barcelona could yet stage a recovery when Ansu Fati returns to fitness and goalscoring form. And only a fool would write off Diego Simeone.
They might need to bring another defender in during January but Atletico will get things right, and if they are knocked out of the Champions League, and possibly not even make the Europa League, then all energy will be focused on the title.
But Madrid have the early advantage and they have the united, balanced, and for the most part fit, squad. They need a steady hand on the tiller, and there is no steadier hand than Ancelotti’s.
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