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Carlo Ancelotti and the case for the 2022 UEFA Best Coach award

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Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Managing a professional football team is not a job for the faint-hearted. While the career is lucrative and brings with it a lot of fame, it does have its own set of frailties.

Managers are the first targets of both the media and the management in the face of defeat. Yet, they are the last ones to be praised when the team performs well.

From maintaining the dressing room atmosphere behind the scenes to running the show on the sidelines with critical decisions, a manager’s job has no dearth of stress. Needless to say, it is difficult to find a candidate who can seamlessly hold the fort on all fronts.

To recognise the importance of coaches in the modern game, UEFA awards an annual prize to the best men’s team coach. The Federation have released a list of three candidates to win the coveted award for the 2021-22 season- Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola.

Madrid Universal brings to you a brief analysis of each candidate’s exploits last season making a case for Carlo Ancelotti.

1. Pep Guardiola

Denied by Carlo. (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

Through his spells in Spain, Germany and now England, Pep Guardiola has revolutionised the way football is seen globally. All of his teams have two commonalities: champaigne football and silverware.

Since his arrival at Etihad, the disciple of Johan Cruyff has turned Manchester City into a winning machine. He has won the Premier League four times in the last five years in addition to several domestic cups.

At the beginning of the 2021-22 season, it seemed like the men in Blue were going to run away with the league title. However, a late resurgence from Liverpool combined with a couple of slip-ups from the leaders saw the race boil down to the final matchday.

On the final matchday, Guardiola’s men notched up an unbelievable comeback from 2-0 down in a must-win situation to win the tie and seal the Premier League title.

The results on other fronts, however, were not as impressive. The Manchester-based club were eliminated in the fourth round of the EFL Cup and lost to Liverpool in the semifinal of the FA Cup. Moreover, they came up short against Liverpool in the final of the FA Community Shield too.

The biggest disappointment came in the UEFA Champions League. Manchester City won the first leg at home with a scoreline of 4-3 and extended their lead to two goals early in the second leg.

Yet, the men in blue conceded two goals after the conclusion of regulation time and lost the tie to a Karim Benzema penalty in the 95th minute.

2. Jurgen Klopp

Also denied by Carlo. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The German manager has been pivotal in Liverpool’s rebuild in recent years and made the Merseyside team into one of the most formidable sides in world football.

However, the 2021-22 season will not go down as one of Klopp’s memorable seasons. He was just two wins away from securing a historic quadruple haul for his side but ultimately fell short in the competitions that matter the most.

The UEFA Champions League final saw Liverpool press and dominate Real Madrid for most of the game. The English side created chance after chance but failed to put them away. Ultimately, Los Blancos‘ only shot on target saw Real Madrid take the lead and win the title.

In the Premier League too, his side came up painfully short. Heading into the final matchday, Liverpool needed Manchester City to drop points to have any chance of winning the title. However, Guardiola’s side pulled off an amazing comeback win to crash Klopp’s hopes.

The German manager finished the season with two trophies to his name, the FA Cup and the EFL Cup. The question is: are domestic cups enough to warrant the award?

3. Carlo Ancelotti

The eyebrow that wins titles. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s manager was, quite comfortably, the most successful of the three nominees last season.

At the beginning of the season, Los Blancos were thought to be a team in transition that could not compete on multiple fronts. Yet, the manager instilled belief and determination into the side and almost won it all.

Real Madrid won La Liga by a whopping 13-point margin under his guidance. Heading into the final part of the season, it was almost a no-contest domestically.

While they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey prematurely in the quarterfinals, the Madrid-based club won the Supercopa de Espana beating Barcelona and Athletic Club in the process.

However, the manager’s biggest success came in the UEFA Champions League. His team did not just win the competition but pulled off a series of unbelievable comebacks to do so. Manchester City, Liverpool and PSG are just some of the world-class sides the club overcame en route to the UCL title.

Every time it appeared that Real Madrid would go down, they fought until the final second and found a way back. The development of such a champion mentality should be credited to Ancelotti, who is well-known for bringing the best out of his players and instilling non-restrictive football.

Prediction

While all three managers had their fair share of success last season, it would appear that Ancelotti is the clear favourite to walk away with the title of ‘The Best Coach’ for 2021-22.

In recent years, the award has been exclusively awarded to the manager of the Champions League winning team. Thomas Tuchel and Hansi Flick won the award in 2020-21 and 2019-20, respectively for guiding their teams to the pinnacle of European football.

Moreover, it would only be fair to award Ancelotti the prize because it was his team that knocked out both Manchester City and Liverpool from the prestigious competition.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Real Madrid have seldom struggled against RCD Mallorca in recent years. The men in white have scored a whopping 15 goals in their last four games against the Palma-based side and their last loss versus them came back in 2019.

If this season’s numbers are anything to go by, however, it would be wrong to overlook Javier Aguirre’s side. Mallorca have won seven of their nineteen La Liga games so far and sit in tenth place with 25 points.

While they have not scored a lot this campaign, they have conceded the fourth-least goals in the Spanish top flight and have an excellent defensive record.

Real Madrid play Mallorca before Barcelona’s game on Sunday and have a chance to reduce the deficit at the top of the table to two points temporarily if they can win at Son Moix.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs Real Madrid.

1. Tchouameni time again?

Aurelien Tchouameni spent close to a month on the sidelines after hobbling off injured in Real Madrid’s clash against Villarreal last month.

In the defensive midfielder’s absence, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to patch the void with unconventional options including Dani Ceballos, Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos as the pivot.

The Frenchman finally made his awaited comeback to the squad in the team’s game against Valencia midweek. As he was returning from a relatively long time on the sidelines, Ancelotti preferred to have him start on the bench.

Tchouameni eventually entered the field in the 66th minute of the game when Toni Kroos asked to be substituted out for precaution. In his 24 minutes on the field, the youngster was almost flawless with 97% passes completed and 100% accurate long balls.

As Los Blancos gear up to play their second game in three days, the time could be right to re-incorporate the 23-year-old into the starting lineup. After all, Tchouameni has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent players this season and it is glaringly clear that they have missed him in recent weeks.

2. Two more casualties

No Benzema and Militao (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

The men in white produced 90 minutes of high-quality football against Los Che on Thursday and reduced the gap with Barcelona to a mere five points. However, the cost of the win was far more than what the manager would have liked to pay.

In return for the three points, Real Madrid saw Karim Benzema and Eder Militao leave the field with injuries to rub salt into Ancelotti’s fresh wounds.

The captain is expected to miss the next two games at least, leaving his team once again without a central striker. In Benzema’s absence, Ancelotti will have to put on his thinking hat and field a forward line that not only creates threats but also has the cutting edge to convert them.

Militao is also unavailable for Sunday’s game. With the Brazilian centre-back ruled out, Real Madrid will likely field a combination of Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez against Mallorca. After all, David Alaba is also returning fresh from injury and might not be fit to start the game.

3. Can Camavinga convince again?

It is almost criminal that a club of Real Madrid’s stature do not have a natural backup for the left-back position.

Ferland Mendy has been Ancelotti’s most preferred position in the player throughout the season. David Alaba was seen as a possible backup option, and though the Austrian International is capable of playing that role, he does not fancy the left-back position anymore.

When Mendy limped off injured in Real Madrid’s game against Atletico Madrid, Eduardo Camavinga thus emerged as a surprise option to fill his shoes. The youngster started the next two games at left-back and did a reasonable job, even earning praise from the manager.

With Tchouameni back running for the Merengues, the left-back role is the only available vacancy for the French International to claim a starting spot.

With Alaba returning, if Camavinga wishes for continuity as a starter, he must produce another exceptional display on Sunday and stake claim as the left-back until Mendy returns.

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