Any talk of Carlo Ancelotti coaching the Azzurri should begin with the parties agreeing on one simple thing. It is a matter of when, not if.
Joachim Low and Gareth Southgate had nowhere near the experience of the aforementioned Coach, whilst Didier Deschamps has been nowhere near as successful. There is no doubt that his CV, boasting three Champions Leagues and four league titles in four countries, is enough elevate him to that level. The questions should be instead: would he want it, when and, would he still be relevant?
After somewhat surprisingly being axed by Bayern Munich, Ancelotti finds himself with many a European club asking the question, would we be better off with him? Despite these super clubs circling, he has decided to take 10 months off to recuperate and enjoy family life, watch football and plan his next move. This has led many to believe that, with Giampiero Ventura only managing to get the Azzurri it seems into the World Cup play offs, that his next move is obvious.
Perhaps Ancelotti will take over the national team when the veteran Ventura is dismissed after they scrape miserably to Russia? It’s unlikely. Despite the fact that by his own admission and as his own autobiography says, I prefer the cup, it seems it is not on his radar. Talking after his exit from Real Madrid, he spoke to the Gazzetta Dello Sport in 2015 and said that this is something for one day, but not for now.
One of the reasons behind this is a very strange theory where the 58-year-old seems to have his own bizarre equation. Italy won the World Cup 12 years after finishing second in both 1982 (second 1970) and 2006 (second in ‘94). Therefore, the prediction is that they will get to the Final this time round in Russia and then win in 2030. This tongue in cheek answer he provided the Gazzetta gives him 10 years plus of club management before he decides to take on the Nazionale. He even went so far as to reference that, like Arrigo Sacchi, he could also have his last hurrah at 71 years young.
He does see the Azzurri as a career-defining honour on which to end on, but it is arguable that he may be more relevant now. His differing tactical approaches at PSG, Milan and Bayern (to name a few) have seen him adapt to leagues, players and situations.
A student of Nils Liedholm, he began at Parma with a traditional 4-4-2, pressed heavily and later confessed he had been too rigid limiting Gianfranco Zola’s creativity. Influenced by Sacchi, he liked four at the back, but had variations. As time wore on, he adapted it to 4–3–1–2, 4–1–2–1–2, a 4–4–2 diamond formation or even the famous Milan ‘Christmas Tree’ 4-3-2-1.
Ancelotti may have a persona that is calm and incredibly good at merging stars in the dressing room into a cohesive unit, but this isn’t always the case. He has been known to lay down the law and his ideas are not always taken on by nodding dogs on the training ground. Just ask Munich. Even so, he is better than most and could easily, tactically and personally command a national team’s attention for the space of a tournament.
Italy would do worse than trying to get the ex-Bayern Coach on board before the mythical 2030 date, but perhaps this tournament is too soon. After all, he does want to do this near the end of his career, but one should never say never in football. Remember, this is a World Cup and if Italy scrape through, then perhaps Ventura has done what he can for this team. This is a good generation of players who could go far in the tournament if coached correctly. Ancelotti does love a cup after all, he has won 23 of them, so why not 24 and why not the biggest of all?