If I asked a group of fans to name the top active manager in football today, what names would you expect to see picked?
I’d expect we would see an avalanche of responses for José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. And rightly so: both managers have produced incredible results over the last five or so years. I’d hope Atlético’s Diego Simeone would get a few votes. And I’d wager Dortmund’s Jürgen Klopp would get a few too — though given his side’s disastrous form, probably not as many as a year or two ago. Jogi Löw or Vicente Del Bosque? Ok. Manuel Pelligrini or Louis Van Gaal? Maybe. Hell, a few naive Arsenal supporters might even still be willing to throw Arsène Wenger out there, but that number is likely dwindling too. Jürgen Klinsmann? I kid, I kid.
But there’s one name I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he received little to no votes: current Real Madrid supremo, Carlo Ancelotti.
My reasons for believing that aren’t just anecdotal either. I’ve had literally had the hypothetical discussion above several times before. And rarely ever does Ancelotti’s name come up. Which is odd, because the guy’s track record is pretty damn impressive.
Ranking Ancelotti as one the elite managers in the game is as easy as looking at his resume. Though he started his managerial career at the modest clubs of Reggiana and Parma, the clubs that have employed him since are genuine powers: Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.
And no mater where he’s gone, success has soon followed. He was able to get Reggiana promoted back to Serie A in just his first season as a manager. After leaving for Parma, Ancelotti inspired the club to a shock second place finish. He was then hired away by Juventus, where he promptly won them the Intertoto Cup. After being appointed a struggling Milan’s manager in 2001, it took him just two seasons to take the under performing Rossoneri and restore them back into one of Europe’s elite sides by lifting the Champions League trophy in 2003. They then hoisted the Scudetto in 2004, narrowly missed out the Champions League tittle again in 2005 — thanks to Liverpool’s epic comeback in Istanbul — and then successfully avenged their loss to Liverpool by beating them to win the competition again in 2007. At Chelsea, he managed to bag a double by winning both the FA Cup and Premier League titles in ’09/’10. At PSG, he guided the Parisians to a Ligue 1 trophy in his first full season in charge.
Now at Madrid, things have followed a similar template for the Italian. Mr. Ancelotti was able to quickly corral the chaos at a post-Mourinho Madrid, which is no easy task given how much infighting and division there was during the “Special One’s” reign and the size and quantity of the egos in their dressing room. And because of that, not only did he win the Copa del Rey, but more importantly, he was able to deliver the club their long-awaited tenth Champions League crown.
But since football is a “what have you done for me lately” world, you might be wondering “Well, how is Ancelotti’s Madrid doing right now?” Well, Los Blancos are currently steamrolling their La Liga competition, sitting atop the league table and having dropped an astounding 48 goals on their opponents just a third of the way into the season. They’re on a record 17-match winning streak. Cristiano Ronaldo is probably playing the best he ever has. The Italian manager has also somehow managed to continue to integrate in all of the glamour signings his president gives him — guys like Kroos, Bale, James — while still balancing the likes of the rest of the stars in the Madrid ranks.
Some might tempted to say “Well anyone could get results with a side like that!” Except for Mourinho, who everyone trips over themselves to anoint.
And yet Ancelotti remains a man who is somehow routinely left out of the “top managers in the game” discussion. Hell, ESPNFC even had the gall to rank him outside the top ten in a recent list they put together.
Now if you’re the type that needs stats to confirm someone’s greatness, I’ve taken the liberty to pull the career statistics of ten of the managers that normally come up in that discussion to see how Ancelotti compares. And needless to say, he compares very favorably:
|Manager||Age||Matches||Wins||Draws||Losses||Win %||Major Trophies|
|Vicente Del Bosque||63||472||258||101||113||54.7||6*|
|Louis Van Gaal||63||816||500||159||157||61.3||12*|
I’ve defined “Major Trophies” as either winning first division titles, a country’s primary knockout cup, or one of Europe or South America’s top two club competitions.
* – indicates Champions League trophies
While it’s true that Ancelotti’s winning percentage lags behind the likes of Mourinho, Guardiola, and Van Gaal, he also has managed significantly more matches than any of his contemporaries. Also, tossing out his time at smaller, less resourceful clubs like Reggiana and Parma — a challenge none of those peers undertook — his percentage increases to 60%.
When you consider major trophies, only Van Gaal and Mourinho have more. But both gathered a sizable chunk of their trophies in less competitive leagues like Holland and Portugal. And that’s not to mention that Ancelotti is the only manager to have won three Champions League crowns — plus a fourth and fifth time if you include the two times he won the European Cup as a player.
And at only the age of 55, it’s not inconceivable that we’ll see him pile on the wins and trophies for another decade to come.
Why doesn’t he get the recognition that some of his fellow managers receive? Maybe it’s because he (unfairly) got the sack at Chelsea. Or because he didn’t win it all with a loaded PSG. Perhaps it’s that he worked for so long in Italy’s Serie A, a league few — at least here in the States — follow closely. Hell, maybe some just don’t how his eyebrow does that thing it does, and that bothers them.
Whatever the case, Ancelotti’s record, performances and pedigree demands that he should at least be in the discussion about the world’s best managers.
And I’m going to make damn sure people hear about it.