Years of bad blood can spur on Madrid to give Ancelotti chance at revenge | Sid Lowe

Years of bad blood can spur on Madrid to give Ancelotti chance at revenge | Sid Lowe

Carlo Ancelotti said he was on the “good side” of European football’s grandest rivalry and, on the eve of the Champions League semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, revealed the ­Bavarian club did not support him when he was coach.

The Italian, though, insisted he remained friends with Uli ­Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the ­former president and chief ­executive ­respectively, and that the Bayern coach, Thomas Tuchel, would think he was on the good side too as the pair prepare for the most tense of ties, which starts level at 2-2. “Today, we enjoy; tomorrow, we will worry,” he said.

Over 34 years as a coach, ­Ancelotti completed the collection: four ­European Cups, leagues in Italy, ­England, France, Spain and Germany, all while working with the biggest footballers and toughest owners too, the game’s greatest egos. There is a line of his that says a coach’s job is to keep president and players happy and on side, a task he must manage ­“gently”, which helps explain his ­success – that unique capacity to ­handle everyone from Cristiano ­Ronaldo, Marco van ­Basten and Zinedine Zidane to ­Silvio Berlusconi, Roman ­Abramovich and Nasser al-Khelaifi, Aurelio de ­Laurentiis, Florentino Pérez and the Bayern grandees.

Occasionally it doesn’t work, even for Ancelotti. Life has not always been perfect in Spain and he was sacked a year after delivering Real Madrid’s 10th European Cup, which had come to obsess them. But he is back, wildly successful again, and these are the games you coach for, he said. He is happier in Madrid, where he intends to retire, than Munich where he lasted only 14 months, sacked after defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in ­September 2017 amid reports of divides in the dressing room and the boardroom, the coach increasingly isolated and undermined.

“In the end, we have to do a job, we have an idea, and we need the ­support of the club, because if not your work doesn’t go the way it should,” ­Ancelotti said. “When that support is lacking, it is best to have a separation, and that’s what ­happened with Bayern Munich. I have a ­­fantastic relationship with Hoeness, Rummenigge, with all those who work there. But if you don’t have the support, you have to split and avoid problems.”

Carlo Ancelotti, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeness and his wife pose during their Oktoberfest visit in Munich on 23 September 2017View image in fullscreen

Bayern and Madrid have faced each other 27 times, have 20 ­European Cups and years of bad blood between them, and Ancelotti has ­experienced this rivalry from both sides. His Madrid team won 4-0 in Munich en route to their 10th ­European Cup and the last time they met in a ­European tie he was the Bayern manager. ­Controversially defeated in extra time at the Bernabéu in April 2017, he said then that “history will show that Madrid eliminated Bayern but the world saw what happened”.

“Madrid and Bayern are similar: clubs with great tradition, history, lots of Champions League ­success,” Ancelotti said now. “They are the team [most] like us. They have ­players with experience such as [Manuel] Neuer, [Joshua] Kimmich, [Thomas] Müller, who know the ­character of the team. We are two teams that play very well in transitions, because we have players up front with quality, who are fast. In that sense, I think we are the two most dangerous teams in Europe. You can prevent transitions, but it’s not easy. If there has to be extra time, we will play it. We respect each other. That is always the right thing to do in a semi-final, and they did well in the first game, better than us.

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Players of Real Madrid thanking their fans after the Champions League semi-final, first leg match between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at the Allianz ArenaView image in fullscreen

“I have confidence because it’s Real Madrid, because we have this squad, because this team has played well this season. And we have fans that will help us. We think we’re on the good side, but Tuchel will think that too. We’re not [over]optimistic, we have the [right] hope and enthusiasm. It could be another magical night for us, but it’s not [over]optimism; we’re conscious of the difficulties.

“Today is a day worth living, one to face with all the enthusiasm in the world. Maybe tomorrow will be harder; I am sure it will be because that’s when the worry and the fear comes, but today is spectacular. Having the chance to prepare a semi-final is very nice; that’s what motivates you.”