In His Own Words: Carletto The Teddy Bear Finally Arrives At Real Madrid

Denis Doyle

Carlo Ancelotti is now Real Madrid's coach and it had nearly all happened once before in 2006. In the end it took Carletto 7 years after he was first approached to arrive at Real Madrid. This piece takes a look at his near-signing with us and provides an additional dozen excerpts from his autobiography: The Beautiful Game of an Ordinary Genius.

Paolo Maldini Introduces Carletto The Teddy Bear

Maldini, captain of AC Milan, wrote the forward to Carlo Ancelotti's autobiography and after relating his coach's love of food and exuberant generosity (which found expression in constantly calling individual players over to taste whatever delicious thing he was eating) also tells of an incident in which his coach completely lost his temper at the team after a loss in a pre-season friendly ("he said things to us I can't repeat").

Two days later the coach came to apologize to his team and ask their forgiveness.

He's a teddy bear, deep down. The secret of our track record is the fact that he's a regular guy. There's no need to be the Special One, Two, or Three to win. It's enough to have an inner equilibrium and to stay out of the limelight, to keep from setting off fireworks in front of the television cameras.

Whenever he loses his temper, he unfailingly comes to me afterward and asks: "Paolo, was I wrong?" Carlo never wants to do everything on his own. It's a sign of his considerable intelligence. And that's why he can win wherever he goes: at A. C. Milan, at Chelsea, at Real Madrid-anywhere. His knowledge of soccer is global, enormous. He has mind-boggling experience of every aspect of the game. Even as a player he was an outstanding organizer-of the game and of ideas. You can't really criticize him, either in technical or human terms: if you do, you're not being fair.

Real Madrid & What Might Have Been

"A wonderful prospect, the scent of life..."

That is how Carlo Ancelotti described what he felt in 2006 when he was first approached by Real Madrid's Florentino Perez to coach the team. Negotiations fell through when AC Milan refused to allow him to go and there was no question of forcing the move. But for years afterward he kept the pre-contract he had signed in a box in his house like a precious memory. The negotiations he held with Madrid are lovingly recorded in a chapter of his book.

Other references to Real Madrid litter his autobiography. An example includes a dispute over tactics before a Champions League match with Galliani of AC Milan.

"We are A. C. Milan, and don't you ever forget it. Now, let me explain a thing or two."

He gave me a lesson in geography: "We're in Madrid."

A lesson in history: "Whoever wins here will be remembered for all time."

A lesson in religion: "The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is a temple, a shrine."

There can be little doubt Ancelotti shared these sentiments. Yesterday, reporters noted that his eyes filled with tears when he stepped onto the pitch at the Bernabeu.

Ancelotti was also interviewed by Real Madrid's in-house media yesterday and referenced that time and agreed that to coach Madrid is the fulfillment of a dream. He did not consider it his first day of work, because he had felt too much emotion. There can be no doubt that Real Madrid have a coach who is genuinely thrilled and honoured to be coaching this club.

Carlo Ancelotti In His Own Words

The autobiography I have been quoting from is highly recommended. Run to your nearest bookstore or find it online. The book is so funny and charming it's hard to read without a smile or, at certain moments, without tears of hilarity running down your cheeks. The man himself is witty, self-effacing, humorous and has - as all great comics must - a fine sense of the ridiculous coupled with a complete lack of self-consciousness.

I have excerpted a dozen extracts to give members of Managing Madrid some idea of the humour and humanity of their new coach. I had to pick excerpts that have some relation to Madrid - the club, its personalities (past and present) and to Carletto's winning ways - those the club and fans hope he will bring with him. So there wasn't room for portions of the books that are, I assure the readers, even funnier.

In other words: find yourself a copy of the book. Did you know Arrigo Sacchi talked in his sleep? Don't you want to know what he would say? Well, precisely. Get the book; hilarity guaranteed!

In the meantime, enjoy reading.

On Coaching & Living In England And Winning His First Trophy With Chelsea

I can go wherever I want without being stopped on the street, that's the exciting new change for me. I can go to the supermarket and the only people who come up to me are security guards, looking at my overflowing shopping cart and wondering, with a hint of suspicion, "Is this a robbery?"...

We became the team that went down in English soccer history by winning the Double, the Premier League and the FA Cup-not forgetting the Community Shield at the beginning of the season against Manchester United. For a long time, I thought that was my favorite trophy, if only because it's shaped like a plate. And on that plate you can put what you like: I piled it high with passion, with the discovery of a world I knew nothing about...

Once they put the trophy - or perhaps I should say, the plate - in my hand, I hoisted it with enormous pride. Priceless, unique, and incredibly light. Magic seconds. And then an imperceptible sense of discomfort seized hold of me for an instant; but that always happens when I see an empty plate.

On Fabio Capello

In the old days, Capello - under the influence, I believe, of the director of the sports center, Antore Peloso - used to claim that there was a ghost in Milanello, wandering freely down the hallways, especially after sunset. I never understood which was crazier, Don Fabio or that ghost, who had decided to pick on him of all people. It really got to be a problem. I can still see Capello, shoulders thrown back, chest swelling with righteous indignation, as if in an imitation of Antonio Cassano: "Begone! Go fuck yourself, evil spirit. This is not a team of dead men."

On Jose Mourinho

Before the second leg, I took him (Sir Alex Ferguson) a bottle of Tignanello as an apology. It's a Tuscan red, maybe sixty euros a bottle, something like that - not three hundred euros a bottle, the way they do at Inter.

On What It's Like To Be Unexpectedly Saddled With An Undesirable (And Old!) Transfer Target

One day, right after the Anglo-Italian Cup, I walked into my little office. There, waiting for me, was Nando De Napoli, a former teammate on the Italian national team at the World Cup of 1986: "Nando, what a surprise! How are you?"

"Fine, Carletto. How are you?"

"Doing great, Nando. You should have called me. I didn't know you were in the neighborhood. If I'd known you were coming, we could have had lunch."

"Oh, yeah, well ..."

"By the way, Nando, what brings you to this neck of the woods?"

"I'm your new midfielder."

I pretended to smile, but inside I was sobbing.

On Zidane

Zidane was the greatest soccer player I ever coached-the sole inhabitant of a very different planet... I am increasingly certain that I coached a supernatural being: supernatural in every way, in his remarkable talent and in his great humility. Zidane is the soccer player who, in my life, produced the greatest array of chills, thrills, and sheer enjoyment-a living spectacle who put on an amazing show every single day...

He had one shortcoming: he never scored all that many goals, he didn't spend a lot of time in the penalty area. He seemed to be allergic to that section of the field, but he was an absolute master of all the others.

On David Beckham

Soccer is like having lunch with your friends: the more you eat, the hungrier you get. It's the chef and the company that make all the difference; and I love the company of David Beckham. One evening, while he was playing for A. C. Milan, I invited Beckham to dinner in a restaurant in Parma. By the end of the evening, he refused to leave the restaurant. I kept insisting, and he kept pleading with me, "Please, one more course." ...In the end, I managed to convince him with these words: "Look, David, if we don't leave this restaurant right now, I'm going to arrange another Spice Girls reunion tour." Fourteen seconds later we were back in the car, hurtling back toward Milan, with the radio off.

On Kaká

Kaká landed at Milan's Malpensa Airport, and I felt like pulling out tufts of my hair: he was wearing schoolboy glasses, his hair was neatly brushed, he had the scrubbed, rosy-cheeked face of a straight-A student. All he lacked was a book bag and a lunch-box. Oh, Lord, what have we done?

...I had never seen Kaká play, even on video. One day, during a press conference, someone asked me about him, about his gifts and skills...I did my best to muddle through, recycling stories I'd heard from others, and one-size-fits-all generalities: "He has two legs, he wears football boots with studs and heels, he's a soccer player by vocation and profession ..." - that kind of stuff. It was awkward...

That's the way it always is at press conferences: you fake it, you spout blatant nonsense, and everybody nods wisely. Even the people who work with you.

At last, one fine day, Kaká showed up for training. For orientation. The first thing I wanted to do was ask him, "Now, have you told your mother and father you won't be going to school today?"

...But what happened next is this: still groggy from jet lag, he got onto the field, and I heard a heavenly choir and the sound of trumpets. He was a heavensent genius, truly sent by heaven. So, if I may: thank you, Lord. Thank you.

On Winning A Champions League Final

(2003)

At four in the morning, I was scarfing down my second bowl of pasta all'amatriciana, prepared for me by Oscar Basini, our team chef. At five in the morning, we were all drunk in the hotel, completely snookered on English beer. We went out and started playing soccer on the hotel golf course, tearing up the green...We were the masters of all Europe, and so, for that one magical night, we were the masters of Manchester as well. We wanted to be considerate - we'd taken all possible precautions, we had even decided to take off our shoes to keep from ruining the green-but accidents happen. Even barefoot, Gattuso is a bulldozer. He tore up everything, even the hole in the middle of the green. In the meantime, Galliani had taken away the cup. He had locked himself in his hotel room with it. He'd taken the Champions League to bed with him. The poor little thing.

(2007)

I don't actually remember that much about the game, but I remember everything about the aftermath. We were in our hotel, by the big and luxurious swimming pool, just outside of Athens. There was a party with a hundred or so people, and when the outsiders finally left, we went over to poolside, where there was a little bar for the hotel guests, a sort of kiosk. We drank it dry in the first five minutes; not a drop of alcohol was left untouched...


Since we were the European champions, we maintained a certain demeanor: no one fell in the pool, but many of us collapsed on the poolside asphalt - which hurt more. In the meantime, Serginho had wrapped his arms around me and was practically in tears: "Carlo, you are my father."

I did some rapid mental calculations; it just wasn't possible. "What are you saying, Sergio? You're older than me ..."

"You're my dad."

"No, Sergio, really. You're far too ugly to be my son."

"Dad ..."

"Cut it out. How the hell can I explain this to Katia and Davide, my two real children?"

...The cup - poor little thing - had wound up in bed with Galliani again. Perhaps it was true love.

On Losing A Champions League Final (2005)

It was the most complicated puzzle I ever faced. It was in that period that I went back to find the thesis I had written for my master's degree at Coverciano to become a fully accredited, first-class soccer coach. I flipped through the pages, going directly to the chapter on psychology: ...

...One outcome of this lack of results is that the player begins to feel a waning enthusiasm, with the risk of calling into question the effectiveness of the work that he is being asked to do. The coach-with the support of the club, of course-must have faith in his ideas, must keep from wavering, must remain confident in his convictions, but, above all, must be aware that he has a group of players that is following him and approves his choices and decisions. If you are sure that the group is on your side, then that is the time to insist on the work that must be done.

Another one: ...

...You must take care to avoid creating anxiety in the pursuit of results at all costs; this is harmful and counterproductive, if you wish to obtain a high level of performance. If the group manages to overcome this series of difficulties, then it becomes more cohesive and much more powerful. At that time, a coach knows that he can count totally on players who are united, highly motivated, and determined. When you can count on a group of people with these characteristics, the work will be less tiresome and the results will certainly be more noteworthy.

I may have been a bad writer, but apparently the prescription for the team's crisis was always clear to me. Tragedy can only produce better performance. Either you emerge, all rowing in the same direction, or you're done for. The process of psychological reconstruction is a lengthy one, perhaps even too long. It took us the entire 2005-06 season to complete it....I may be crazy, but I think that the defeat at Istanbul wasn't completely negative. It had its reasons and its value. We were ready to start over from scratch.

On That Time He Had An Hallucination

Only once in my life have I felt like I needed a psychiatrist. I was looking at Yuri Zhirkov, but all I could see was a rib-eye steak. Perfectly grilled, juicy, smoking, medium rare. I looked him in the eye and suddenly I was starving. Which is nothing new, really. Meat, fish, red wine, Coca Cola, salami, mortadella, romano cheese, a chunk of gorgonzola, fish and chips, layer cake, an after dinner drink, spaghetti, bowties, pesto, Bolognese sauce, a rack of ribs, veal stew, antipasto, appetizers, entrées, dessert...but never had my hunger stirred up by a football player. All the same, just then, that's what was on my mind: I had developed a strange new appetite. It may have had something to do with the fork that was flying straight at his face, following a trajectory that, I must say, had a certain elegance...

...A Russian midfielder with a host of talents and just one shortcoming: he can't sing. He just makes a lot of noise. But now he was going to have to sing. It was his moment. If you want to join the team, it's not enough just to sign a contract....A player has to make it through karaoke night, a sacred ritual, and in this case it was being staged in a hotel in Los Angeles during our 2009 summer tour in the United States...

It was a disaster, he didn't hit one note, not one. Pieces of bread were flying within seconds, followed by pieces of whole fruit-there was more good food on him than there was on the table before long. And that's when I started to like him. Eyes staring off into the middle distance, he went on singing like a drowning cat...And it was the last verse that truly screwed him, because when he reached the point where his teammates just couldn't take it anymore, someone finally let fly that blessed dinner fork.

I stared at it, suspended in midair...As it reached the end of its trajectory, it slowed down and changed direction, like a football...The fork was embarrassed, too. At that exact moment, I had my vision. When it comes to food and eating utensils, my brain is a one-way street, leading to my stomach. The association was instantaneous and organic: fork = steak. I smiled, and for an instant I was the happiest man in the room.



On Being Called A Pig Who Can't Coach By The Juventus Ultras

[In my childhood] we raised pigs, took care of them for a year, slaughtered them in the heart of winter, and then stuffed ourselves on pork. It was good meat, we ate it 365 days a year, and no one ever had problems with cholesterol. In fact, if you ask me, they invented cholesterol later. What I'm trying to say is that if I think of a pig, I feel like I'm thinking of something nice, almost a sacred animal, like a cow in India, say, or else Zlatan Ibrahimović for an Inter fan.

More Food Thoughts

One evening at the San Siro, I was continuing to field Clarence Seedorf, and some of the fans in the stands were voicing their disagreement, one gentleman louder than the others: "Go back to Parma and pig out on tortellini."

"And you go fuck yourself."

He was screaming in Italian, and I replied in proper French.

I wasn't defending Seedorf, it's just that I can't stand by and watch someone insult a perfectly good plate of tortellini.



On Florentino Perez

...there's a bit of Italy in his given name. Florentino. And so it is natural that he possesses the inner art. A conversation with him always has the fine flavor of ancient things. Simple things. Real Madrid fills his soul, occupies his mind, which is candid - in a word, blanca. He has always greeted me with the same phrase, which I have already mentioned: "Carlo, someday you will be my coach."

All excerpts are from Carlo Ancelotti's The Beautiful Game of an Ordinary Genius. Publisher: Rizzoli International Publications. Year: 2010

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