Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from five days ago with the news that Ancelotti is currently on Merseyside holding talks with the Everton leadership regarding the manager position.
There are few active managers that can claim to have the list of accomplishments that Carlo Ancelotti boasts of - three time Champions League winner, league champion in four different countries, multiple cups lifted, and a host of other accolades that he’s picked up in his glittering 27 year career in management.
Yet, the 60-year-old Italian finds himself unemployed today having been sacked yesterday by Napoli despite leading them to the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
As expected, the rumour mills have been churning with the veteran manager linked to both Everton and Arsenal even before his not-quite-unexpected firing by the Italian side where a public falling out with a number of players was only going to end one way for Ancelotti.
Earlier in November, the players reportedly mutinied, ignoring team orders and abandoned a week-long training retreat. Various Italian media sources claimed the players chose to go home after their Champions League match against Red Bull Salzburg instead of Castel Volturno outside Naples where the training camp was being held. Club president Aurelio Di Laurentis was rumoured to have fined the ringleaders of the mutiny £2m for their disobedience.
Napoli continued to struggle after that, going on an eight-game winless streak that led to Ancelotti calling for another ‘in retiro’ despite the failure of the previous attempt. Speaking to the media, the manager claimed that the issues with the squad were more to do with ‘attitude problems’ than anything else, which resulted in him completely losing the dressing room.
If this were a one-off that could be understandable, considering his incredible pedigree having managed Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain, Chelsea, AC Milan and Juventus. However, he was also sacked at his previous job at Bayern, where the management felt he had lost the intensity and tenacity to challenge the players. This is from the Independent soon after that -
While the fact he matched Bob Paisley in winning three European Cups should of course be greatly appreciated, it is no disrespect to say the manner he managed that also pointed to precise reasons why he has also been sacked at Bayern, why his league record of just four domestic titles in almost 20 years at the world’s wealthiest clubs is so underwhelming.
A manager that dabs at things and facilitates rather than firmly taking command and imposing an overall idea, Ancelotti had the type of personality and experience that meant he could perfectly manage mentalities and egos for intermittent big games and keeping things ticking over.
This is why he was almost perfect for coming into big jobs with big players and getting them to do it in the three or four knock-out games required to win a Champions League… but so mediocre in terms of applying the grander longer-term projects required to really drive league campaigns.
He just didn’t have the relentlessness, the rigour. It is no coincidence that two of those mere four league titles came in the one-horse races of France or Germany, and that two of the biggest domestic upsets in recent years - the victories of Montpellier and Atletico Madrid - came against his PSG and Real Madrid sides.
Everton are in an interesting place in the club’s timeline. They are a squad that is currently in a regeneration phase, with youngsters that are still trying to establish themselves while there are a number of players in their prime interspersed with some veterans. Director of Football Marcel Brands has come in with a goal to refresh the entire club’s agenda, with a common strategy across the whole organization. The youth sides would be run with the objective of feeding the teams above them, eventually acting as a pipeline for the senior team.
The manager the Toffees need has to be one that works with the same purpose as Brands, developing a sustainable model for success that will take the club from the periphery of greatness to a permanent member of the top six or even better. That kind of job is not done in two or three years, and requires stability both at the Board level as well as for the manager’s job security. It calls for a manager who is a leader and an independent thinker who is strong enough to resist pressure even when results in the short term aren’t going well, with success in the longer term being the overarching goal.
Ancelotti, with his average tenure of two and one-third years at each stop, has never been that kind of manager, and at this juncture of his career isn’t about to become that person. Like former Blues bosses Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman, his best role right now might be in charge of a national side where he won’t necessarily be involved in the day-to-day running of the team and concerning himself with the mundane tasks that comes with.
There could be an argument made that Ancelotti could step in as a two-three year manager of the Blues to raise their profile and get them in a better place than the lower half of the Premier League table, especially with football being a business of the here and now, but neither Farhad Moshiri nor Brands should be looking to make that kind of interim appointment when they can start a long term plan right away.