Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times as a managerSuave. Sophisticated. Possessing a calm demeanour. A composed visage. Dressing so immaculate that it reeks of OCD. And, an astute footballing brain to go along with all of these. Probably the only high-profile manager in the game to tick all these boxes, it is a million dollar question as to why Carlo Ancelotti's name tops the list at the Italian Unemployment Bureau right now.While one can argue that the grey-haired 56-year old brought the siesta from the game upon himself, wrapping our heads around the fact that Florenti-"no clue"-Perez decided to sack the Italian at the end of the 2014-15 season. Carlo Ancelotti is the quintessential Italian.Having managed the likes of Reggiana, Parma and Juventus, it was at the red half of the city of Milan that he really etched his name into the history books. Nearly a decade later, and having managed the likes of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, he’s the only manager other than the legendary Bob Paisley to have won the Champions League three times.No mean record at all, but it would definitely be fair to say that the former Rossoneri midfielder had some of the best players in the world in his ranks. How would they look, if the very best among them played as a team? Let’s see.
#1 Goalkeeper - Petr Cech
It would be no understatement to say that Petr Cech enjoyed two of the best years of his Chelsea career under Carlo Ancelotti. Winning his first and only Chelsea Player of the Year award from the Italian himself in 2011, the Chelsea No.1 was in imperious form, during the reign of the Reggiolo native.
Their time together began on the best possible note, as Cech kept out two penalties, against those familiar foes from Old Trafford in the 2009 Community Shield.
He would go on to keep a scarcely believable 17 clean sheets that season, winning him yet another Premier League Golden Glove award. He ended the season on a high, saving another penalty against Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final.
The Pompey, who have since fallen to the lowest ebb of English professional football, were treated to an absolute masterclass in goalkeeping by the man in the mask that evening. Needless to say, the relationship between the Numero Uno of the club and their No.1 was fantastic, to say the least.
#2 Right-back - Cafu
On that fateful night in Istanbul ten years ago, apart from Steven Gerrard’s guts and Jamie Carragher’s grit, the only thing that the effervescent Clive Tyldesley kept gushing about, was Cafu’s work rate. Il Pendolino or “The Express Train” as he was lovingly called by the AS Roma faithful, made a living out of running up and down the right flank of the pitch tirelessly.
It is this willingness to do the spadework and not play to the gallery like some of his countrymen often tend to do, that endeared Cafu to Ancelotti. Though the Giallorossi Hall of Famer will always cherish his days at the Stadio Olimpico more than any other, it was at Milan that he won everything – a second Scudetto, the Champions League in 2007 – a fitting rematch against the old tormentors from Merseyside, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
He capped off a storied career, scoring a goal in his swansong match, just his fourth goal in the Rossoneri shirt.
#3 Centre-back - Sergio Ramos
While Ancelotti might feel aggrieved due to being sacked by Florentino Perez this season, he knows it could so easily have happened last season. On that memorable night at the Estadio Da Luz in Lisbon, the poor cousins of the Los Blancos were on the cusp of making history when Sergio Ramos leapt with all the strength he could muster. With one, swift motion of the head, he had saved his manager’s job and had given a galaxy of fans their cherished Decima dream.
This was just one of the instances where Ramos showed his uncanny knack of scoring when it mattered most, under the tutelage of the Italian. In only the previous leg, the semi-final, he scored not once, but twice against Bayern Munich. That too, at the Allianz Arena, against Manuel Neuer and Co.
The defender then went on to score during the very same stages of the Club World Cup too, being voted as the Player of the Tournament. For a player who has always worn the love for his club on his sleeve, Ancelotti was exactly the calm presence required to channel all that passion and energy the right way.
#4 Centre-back - Alessandro Nesta
If Cafu was the engine room that kept running till it dropped dead, Alessandro Nesta was the brains behind the operation – somebody who read football like a game of chess. An interesting point to read about the long haired Italian in his Wikipedia page is that he was known for his “artistic” tackling, among other things.
Now, if only everybody could make that terrier-like charge and retrieve job look artistic. Four-time Serie A Defender of the Year, all the accolades he won were when that league ruled the roost, was the bedrock around which Ancelotti built his legendary Milan team.
Known for his astute and tenacious marking of players, he built his game modelling the great Franco Baresi. And like the great man himself, Nesta also won everything with the Rossoneri – including two UEFA Champions Leagues, a Club World Cup and a Scudetto, during Ancelotti’s reign.
#5 Left-back - Paolo Maldini (C)
Carlo Ancelotti played for the Rossoneri during the Arrigo Sacchi Era, arguably the greatest in the club’s history. While he plied his trade in the centre of the park, there was this young, fresh-faced kid, who kept bombing up and down the left flank.
The son of club legend Cesare Maldini, young Paolo was already destined for greatness when he joined the club as a 15-year old. However, nobody, including his teammate and future supremo, could’ve imagined how the great man grew into the biggest symbol in the history of AC Milan.
Il Capitano won an astonishing five European Cups in his time at the San Siro. To put this in perspective, that’s the same number won by Liverpool, England’s most successful European club, and they have a permanent trophy in their Anfield cabinet.
Imagine this. Had the same rule been applied to Paolo Maldini, he’d have the ‘Ol Big Ears all to himself, owning its pride of place in his bedroom trophy cabinet. Moreover, he won two of these under Ancelotti.
#6 Holding midfield - Andrea Pirlo
Arguably the player whose personal development was shaped most by Ancelotti, Andrea Pirlo is a bona fide legend of world football. The Luciano Pavarotti of the game, Pirlo cut his teeth as a professional in the hole just behind the forwards. While he was good there, he didn’t show enough to become the cliched legen-wait for it-dary maestro that he went on to become.
And the man behind his transformation from a trequartista to a regista was the perpetually eyebrow-raised mentor of his. Entrusted with the role of filling the gigantic shoes left by Demetrio Albertini in holding midfield, Pirlo forged a tremendous understanding with the No. 10s, first with Manuel Rui Costa, and then with Kaka.
Forming a formidable midfield partnership with Gennaro “Pitbull” Gattuso, Pirlo was the metronome on which the whole tempo of the Milan orchestra depended.
The most famous beard in world football went on to win the Scudetto, Champions Leagues, Supercups and the Club World Cup under Ancelotti. More importantly, he won every single one of these trophies for Milan without even the slightest trace of facial hair.
#7 Central midfield - Frank Lampard
If you’re a central midfielder by trade and still go on to score an astonishing 27 goals in a season, you must be something special. That is exactly what Frank Lampard was in his first season under the Italian.
Scoring in the Community Shield against United, Lampard was on fire all season. In fact, he was so good that he was nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year for a mind boggling sixth time in a row.
It was also the season where he scored four goals in a single match – a remarkable feat for someone who plays as a box-to-box midfielder as he used to do – against Aston Villa. This habit of scoring consistently meant he overtook Peter Osgood’s long standing record to become Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer. He ended the season winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup, the first domestic double in the history of the club.
#8 Right attacking midfield - Kaka
When Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite was signed for “peanuts” to quote Silvio Berlusconi, by Milan in 2003, history was in the making. Kaka, as the kid was popularly known, ousted none other than Rui Costa within a month of his arrival in Lombardy. In fact, he was so good, he was named Serie A player of the year in his debut season, vindicating Ancelotti’s decision to buy him.
The next season, he nearly won the Champions League, putting in a virtuoso display against Liverpool in Istanbul. Years later, Steven Gerrard went on to recall the Brazilian’s performance that night with the kind of awe that we usually reserve for our childhood heroes. He was that good. However, he wasn’t to be denied for long, as that fateful night was avenged two years later, making Kaka a Champions League winner.
The next season, he reached another milestone, winning the Ballon d’Or by a huge margin, leaving the runner-up miles behind him. If that doesn’t put his achievement in proper perspective, the identity of the man who came second surely will. Cristiano Ronaldo.
#9 Left attacking midfield - Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo. If pictures speak a thousand words, this name will speak a million. And more. With his popularity and fame reaching extra terrestrial heights literally, it is safe to say Ancelotti will never manage another like him, unless he turns up at the Camp Nou on a fine summer morning.
Under Ancelotti, this is how Ronaldo’s honours list looks like this – Copa Del Rey winner, UEFA Champions League Winner, Ballon d’Or winner, UEFA Supercup winner, FIFA Club World Cup winner, two-time European Golden Shoe winner, UEFA Champions League top scorer, two-time Pichichi winner, UEFA Best Player in Europe winner, La Liga Best Player of the Year winner, La Liga Forward of the Year winner.
Also, he is currently the joint highest goalscorer in Champions League history with Lionel Messi, holds the record for most Champions League goals in a season, most hat tricks in La Liga history, and also became the first player to score in eight consecutive matches. Eight.
And all these are just records and honours he mustered under Carlo Ancelotti. Enough said.
#10 Striker - Didier Drogba
Carlo Ancelotti came to the Stamford Bridge in the 2009-10 season. One of the issues he had to contend with was losing his star striker, Didier Drogba, for a month, due to the African Cup of Nations. Seldom would he have thought that the Ivorian would still go on to win the Premier League Golden Boot at the end of a stellar season, both personally and for his team.
By the end of the season, he had scored an incredible 29 goals in the Premier League, leaving Wayne Rooney in his wake. In addition to this, he also won the Premier League and FA Cup, scoring in the final of the latter. Thus, he maintained his incredible record of having scored in all six English Cup finals in which he had played.
Truly, a remarkable record to cap off a remarkable season played under a remarkable man.
#11 Striker - Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The only Parisien to make this list, Zlatan Ibrahimovic rounds off our Carlo Ancelotti XI. And there’s hardly a better man to lead the line of any team in football today than the Rosengard native. In his only season with the Italian, the Swede broke a host of records on his way to winning the Ligue 1 title.
He became the only the third player to score in Spain’s El Clasico, Italy’s Derby Della Madonnina and France’s Le Classique when he scored against Marseille with a trademark, thunderous free kick. In simply Zlatan style, he followed it up with a cheeky backheel like only he could.
Ibra soon went on to become the first player since Jean-Pierre Papin to score 30 goals in a Ligue 1 season, thus becoming the top scorer in the process. Needless to say, he also went on to win the Ligue 1 Player of the Year in his only season with Ancelotti.