London: Eight-and-a-half years have passed since Carlo Ancelotti last managed in England and, raising a signature eyebrow and playful smile, the Italian was quick to quip on Tuesday that he hoped things would go a little better for him at Everton than the last time he was at Goodison Park.
“My last game here, I was sacked [by Chelsea],” Ancelotti ventured, before anyone could remind him of his unceremonious dismissal in 2011, just 12 months after leading the west London club to a Premier League and FA Cup double.
“I was sacked in the corridor there. I think you have to put up a little plaque, ‘Here was sacked ...’. I never beat Everton. Also at Stamford Bridge, we didn’t win against them. David Moyes was my nightmare. In the FA Cup, Leighton Baines scored at the last. I am going to remind him of that now ...”
For one of the true managerial titans, it was a good line in self-deprecating humour that Evertonians would doubtless appreciate.
Ancelotti, who was formally unveiled as Everton’s new manager, certainly knows how to play to a crowd and the club’s board will hope they finally have a manager the fans can really unite behind as they strive for bigger and better things at a time when Liverpool’s dramatic resurgence has served only to shine a brighter spotlight on their struggles.
Roberto Martinez, Moyes’s successor, was unable to build on a promising first season. Ronald Koeman never gave the impression that Everton were anything more than a stepping stone. Sam Allardyce’s face did not fit and Ancelotti’s immediate predecessor, Marco Silva, left this month with the team mired in the bottom three after a 5-2 defeat by Liverpool.
So, it is easy to see why Farhad Moshiri, Everton’s ambitious majority shareholder, has now thrown a load of cash at one of the most successful managers of modern times, even if it is a little harder to understand why a 60-year-old veteran with three European Cup wins to his name has pitched up on the success-starved half of Merseyside.
Sacked by Napoli only a fortnight ago, Ancelotti was preparing for Christmas in Vancouver with his Canadian wife, Mariann Barrena, until Everton called and the lure of a return to the Premier League proved too much.
Ancelotti — who has signed a 4-1/2-year contract — expressed a hope that he would one day be managing in the Champions League in a new £500 million (Dh2.37 billion) stadium on Liverpool’s docks, the final planning application for which was due to be submitted yesterday.
Yet, in the short term, he takes charge of a club who are five points and five places below the Burnley side who visit on Thursday and inherits a squad who are a monument to scattergun spending and muddled thinking. It certainly represents a departure from previous jobs at AC Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich, let alone Chelsea.
So, why saddle himself with such an onerous task?
“I love to train, I love to manage,” Ancelotti countered. “I am really passionate for my job. It is a fantastic club and my dream is to bring Everton to the top positions of the Premier League as soon as possible.
“The attraction is the history and tradition of the club. It is true I managed top clubs. At Paris St-Germain, the ambition was really good and I think here is the same.”
Ancelotti expects to have money to spend in the transfer market next month but he seemed more interested in realising the untapped potential of an underperforming squad.
A two-time European Cup winner as a player with Milan, Ancelotti has always had a natural empathy with players and it is that genial man-management style, coupled with his coaching acumen, that Everton hope will bring the best out of a young squad.
“Until now, it didn’t reach the level that the quality of this squad [should have] in my opinion. They are really good players — young and some experienced,” Ancelotti said.
He referenced older heads such as Baines and Seamus Coleman as having a “strong sense of belonging” to Everton that he would seek to utilise and made it abundantly clear that, while indiscipline would not be tolerated, he would not be presiding over a totalitarian regime.
“I am not a sergeant,” he said. “They have to know what I like — that the players take responsibility for themselves and discipline.
“I can use the whip sometimes. But I don’t like to use the whip because no one used the whip in my life against me. I am able to do this but I don’t want to.
“I think that the relationship with the players has to be at the same level — I don’t want to be over them but I don’t want to be below them. For me, the player has to understand quickly how I want the relationship [to be]. And, after that, you have to put in place a system of play that the players are comfortable with, that’s it.
“From what I saw in the last four games, I have loved the spirit of the team — they were really tough, well organised defensively but we can play better football offensively, I am sure.”
Ancelotti never won at Goodison as an opposition manager. But he hopes to quickly make it a very happy home.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019