Just 12 months ago, Real Madrid were on the brink of a historic 10th European Cup win, one they would go on to secure in dramatic fashion after seeing off city rivals Atletico Madrid in Lisbon. It capped off a tough but reasonably successful first season for Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti – Real Madrid also beat Barcelona 2-1 to win the Copa del Rey – and validated a squad building strategy that had started with the arrival, at great cost, of the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, and concluded with the £85 million acquisition of Gareth Bale the previous summer.
Yet, with all the soul searching that surrounds Real Madrid today, that seems a distant memory. Real Madrid’s reign as European champions ended on Wednesday night – after a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus saw them eliminated 2-3 on aggregate – and the recriminations have started apace. It’s not just the European crown too. The Spanish Cup was already gone – Atletico knocked them out in the last eight – and a few days earlier, Real Madrid drew, again at home, with Valencia, allowing Barcelona to take a commanding four point lead in the race for the league title. That Real Madrid strengthened their squad in the summer, adding even more superstars – Colombian World Cup star James Rodriguez and German World Cup winner Toni Kroos – also raised expectations for another successful season, and has only deepened the frustration of Real Madrid fans.
All told, its been a bad week for Ancelotti, who now finds himself in the untenable position of leading Real Madrid through a season without winning a single trophy. At a club as demanding as Real Madrid, regardless of what happened last year, that typically marks the end of the relationship – even trophy winning coaches have been let go in the past – and it’s no surprise that speculation is already rife that Ancelotti will be moving on in the summer. Indeed, according to The Guardian, Ancelotti’s two-match La Liga ban means the accomplished Italian may have already sat on the Real Madrid bench for the last time.
El Chiringuito | Real Madrid are already negotiating with Klopp. pic.twitter.com/GvXQPIlgto
— SocialRMadrid (@SocialRMadrid) May 14, 2015
The man himself seems resigned to his fate, as quoted in The Guardian.
“I would like to stay but I know very well how things are in football. If the club is happy, I can continue, if not, they will have to make a decision. The club has the right to change coach if it is not happy.”
Real Madrid’s track record – seven managers in the last 10 years – suggests the club will not be happy, yet ESPN‘s Gabrielle Marcotti believes Ancelotti is not solely to blame for Real Madrid’s woes, and that the former Milan, Chelsea and PSG manager could still be in the job next season. He points to club president Florentino Perez and his policy of stock-piling expensive superstars – as opposed to building a balanced team – has the root of the club’s problems.
“He was tasked with delivering a system that would deliver results while shoe-horning an ill-assorted cadre of superstars into the same team….In his last eight seasons as club president, Real Madrid have won nothing on six occasions”.
Not that those superstars have been spared criticism too. Welshman Gareth Bale, in particular, has too often been on the receiving end of the barbs, from both the media and Real Madrid fans, and there’s a possibility he could be on his way out, just two years after his much-heralded arrival from Tottenham.
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) May 15, 2015
Indeed, of all of Real Madrid’s fine array of stars, only Cristiano Ronaldo, with his phenomenal goal scoring, would appear to be safe. This after all, is the club that sold Mesut Ozil to make way for Bale in 2013, and followed that the next year by moving Angel di Maria to accommodate James Rodriguez. Veteran captain Iker Casillas has been another to come under criticism, and could join a number of squad players – Fabio Coentrao, Asier Illaramendi, Sami Khedira – who are likely to call time on their Real Madrid careers this summer.
If the history of Real Madrid is anything to go by, there will be changes at the Bernabeu this summer. How extensive, and whether that will be accompanied by a change in transfer policy, remains to be seen.
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images Sports)