Was there ever really any doubt this was coming? Despite some in the media speculating it would be different this time, the inevitable sacking of Carlo Ancelotti by Real Madrid happened this week. Although he won the club’s 10th European title in his first season in charge, this season he won nothing. The last time a manager remained in charge at the White House after going trophy-less was in 1983; and that was Alfredo Di Stefano, a club legend.
Ancelotti has essentially been a dead man walking ever since Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus. Barcelona clinching the title a few days later was just the final push down the staircase for Ancelotti. It’s unfortunate because there really aren’t many managers in world football better than Ancelotti, certainly none that are on the market at the moment.
But by all accounts the club is set to announce Rafa Benitez as Ancelotti’s successor. Benitez’s Napoli side faces a clutch meeting with Lazio this weekend. With Napoli’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League in the balance, Benitez has refused to comment about the speculations. However Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has called for a press conference Thursday and it’s believed the Spanish coach’s impending departure will be announced then.
AS in Spain quoted one of Benitez’s assistants as saying “The deal will go ahead.” Part of the ongoing negotiations between the club and Benitez’s ageny apparently hinges on Benitez being allowed to bring his backroom staff with him to Madrid.
Ancelotti meanwhile, has announced he will be taking a one-year sabbatical from football in order to have back surgery. The Italian, who won the Champions League twice managing AC Milan before claiming La Decima, has had no shortage of offers. Milan, Liverpool and West Ham have all reportedly made contact in recent days.
While Benitez’s CV may not quite match Ancelotti’s, the Spaniard twice won La Liga with a team that wasn’t Barcelona or Real Madrid (Valencia 2001-02, 2003-04) and won the Champions League with Liverpool. While it’s been over a decade since Benitez has claimed a domestic title, during his two seasons at Napoli, he led the club to wins in the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.