It was on August 31, 2014. Real Madrid had exited the Basque land broken, dejected and in the relegation zone after their 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid, their second straight loss in La Liga after their 4-2 humbling against Real Sociedad. Just a month before, Real had sold two of their best players in Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso and new recruits James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos were struggling to adapt.
Immediately, the fans wanted answers from club president Florentino Perez and coach Carlo Ancelotti; the man who finally landed La Decima just three months earlier in Lisbon. Club captain and the beloved son of Madrid Iker Casillas was being lambasted left, right and centre because of his displays, and rightfully so. But one man remained calm, and this was none other than Ancelotti.
The Italian never strikes a nerve nor does he panic (except for the odd occasion of popping his pressure pills) and he has done this ever since he started in management with Reggina back in 1995. During a press conference, Ancelotti admitted that he is a coach “that needs to fix things” and that he did. Quietly, dignified with no crisis and no attack on officials or his players.
After that defeat on September 15th against Atletico, Los Blancos have been unbeaten, racking up 32 goals in seven La Liga matches and 11 goals so far in the Champions League. Leading up to El Clasico two weeks ago, Real had been sensational, with star man Cristiano Ronaldo doing what he does best but they were going to be without one of their ferocious attackers in Gareth Bale through injury. The jury was still out, Real and Carlo had yet to beat Barcelona in the league since March last year and the doubts started creeping in when Neymar opened the scoring inside five minutes.
But Ancelotti stayed calm, and after Ronaldo’s equaliser, Real dominated and that match summed up Los Blancos’ domination in Spain for the two months. All of a sudden, the departure of Alonso and Di Maria seems a distant memory, and every department seems to be rising to the occasion at Los Blancos. Casillas all of a sudden seems to be without a jeer and the defence seems more composed. The midfield is able to press quickly and win the ball back and with Ronaldo around, the forwards seem more motivated than ever.
James is now finally showing the quality we saw back at the World Cup, Karim Benzema seems like the striker that banged in goals for fun at Lyon and Toni Kroos is the midfielder we saw in the German World Cup-winning team. Real are now top of La Liga, and have qualified for the next round of the Champions League but the manner in which they have done so seems to be the most admired. They are playing the way the fans want them to play, the way Real Madrid are meant to play and the stereotype of Italian pragmatism linked with Ancelotti has suddenly vanished.
Perez believes in the project of Ancelotti. The Italian has so far repaid the faith of the president, winning the Copa Del Rey, the Uefa Super Cup and of course La Decima; the coveted tenth Champions League title. The season is still very long, and Real know full well that humility and standing firm on the ground will be key if they are to maintain this momentum. But for now, winning the Fifa Club World Cup could maintain that momentum and add another trophy to Real’s illustrious cabinet. And as long as the calmness exists within Ancelotti, this current Real squad can become of the greatest in Europe and the legacy of this proud club will continue to grow.