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Ancelotti: “I’d have voted Benzema first, Vinícius second and Courtois third for the Ballon d’Or”

The coach was asked about Messi’s prize, as well as Wednesday’s Athletic match. 

Real Madrid v Sevilla - La Liga Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti had a press conference on Tuesday, speaking to the media about the Wednesday night Athletic Club match and also about the Ballon d’Or ceremony, where Lionel Messi won his seventh. Asked if he would have voted Messi as the best player of 2021, Ancelotti chuckled and went on to say: “I have a conflict, you see, because I’m at Real Madrid and, if I had a vote, I couldn’t vote for a player who isn’t at Real Madrid. So, if I had to pick the best, I’d have picked Karim first, Vinícius second, Courtois third, Casemiro fourth, Kroos fifth and then, I don’t know, Camavinga… I have to respect the result because it’s about personal preference. Messi has won and he is still a great player. For players, the individual awards are important and they can be an important motivation for them. But, if they don’t win it then I don’t think it’s a big problem either. I hope a Real Madrid player can win it next year. Benzema had a great year and was fourth this time. He’ll remain motivated to work, train and play hard to try to win it next year. Vinícius also has all the quality to fight to win it one day. There are many candidates in the Real Madrid squad. We have Courtois too, although it is difficult for a goalkeeper to win it. But, neither Benzema nor Courtois cried today because they didn’t win a prize last night.”

Moving on to talk about the challenges that Athletic will pose, as the team with the fewest goals conceded so far in LaLiga Santander, the coach said: “They concede few goals because they are compact and well-organised at the back. Marcelino has always been a coach who works well on defence. Athletic will be a tough game, just like Sevilla. It’ll be demanding. We need to have balance because this opponent attacks quickly and directly.”

Ancelotti also explained that he isn’t worried about fatigue setting in, explaining: “I have a squad that is used to this kind of wear and tear. They’re used to having many matches in a row and keeping the motivation high. I don’t think we’ll have a problem there. I don’t like to rotate just for the sake of rotating. I will evaluate the players’ condition after each match and training session.”

The Italian also provided an update on Eden Hazard, dismissing the latest reports about a fresh injury. He stated: “He had gastroenteritis, not an injury. There’s no mystery in the background. His issues are just physical and he just needs to improve his condition to stop these various problems. He’ll get minutes since there are many games coming up. Right now, Hazard is good and completed today’s training session with the team. Tomorrow he’ll be with the team.”

Ancelotti on Militão and Alaba’s partnership

Éder Militão and David Alaba have become Real Madrid’s new central defensive pairing and the coach was asked about how they fit together. He replied: “Militão and Alaba are combining their talents well. Militão has more physical quality, while Alaba is more tactically used to playing in a back four line this. Then, we have Nacho too and he is at the same level when he plays. He is a mix of the two, as he is good physically and can also play in different positions tactically. We are working for all of the members of our back four to be in sync and working in the same direction.”

Ancelotti on Vinícius remaining humble

Discussing the man of the moment, Ancelotti said that he isn’t worried about Vinícius letting notions of stardom get to his head. The coach said: “Vinícius knows his place in the squad and the teammates he has. I don’t think he feels like he’s the star of the team, because he is very humble. Having experienced teammates around him will help him.”

Ancelotti on the Real Madrid vs Sevilla refereeing decisions

The refereeing from Real Madrid vs Sevilla was brought up again and Ancelotti explained that he has seen replays of the various incidents and is glad that neither side was awarded a penalty. He said: “At the start of the season, they told us that little penalties wouldn’t be called. There were two situations in the Sevilla game, one where Alaba made a light contact on Ocampos and one where Diego Carlos made a light contact on Vinícius. They weren’t called because they were slight penalties. I agree with that. To give a penalty, it has to be clear. I agree that they shouldn’t be given when they’re not clear.”

Ancelotti on the winter market

With just a month to go until the start of the January transfer window, Ancelotti was asked in this press conference if he’d like any reinforcements. He replied: “Generally, I think you need to work on the squad in summer. I don’t like winter adjustments too much. If you make changes in the winter market then it means you made a mistake in summer. I don’t think we need to improve this squad. If there are players who aren’t happy and want to leave then we can think about it, but I don’t think we need to make signings.”