The 2020/21 campaign was a story of coming just short for Real Madrid, even in a season when usual title rivals Barcelona were in turmoil. Los Blancos pushed Atlético Madrid to the final day, only to finish second, and bowed out in the semi-finals of the Champions League to the eventual winners, Chelsea. The less said about the Copa del Rey round of 32 exit, the better.
Just as the club did with Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid have turned to a familiar face to helm the ship, with Carlo Ancelotti rejoining the fold. Accompanying the new managerial appointment is one of the best defenders in world football, David Alaba, who comes to the Bernabéu from Bayern Munich.
So, what can Real Madrid’s army of fans expect from these two huge additions to the team?
Welcoming back the winner of 20 major titles
It’s very clear that Real Madrid aren’t willing to potentially squander the opportunity presented by a flailing Barça with an untested manager. So, they’ve plucked Ancelotti from Everton, likely as a result of failing to land Massimiliano Allegri, per Marca. Even so, Los Blancos are getting a tried and trusted manager.
In fact, Ancelotti’s two seasons at Real Madrid, from 2013 to 2015, still rank as two of his best to date, averaging a La Liga points per match average of 2.36. Of course, it’s all about the silverware at the Bernabéu. The Italian has won 20 major titles across Europe, with a FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Supercup, Copa del Rey, and Champions League trophy coming during his first spell at Real Madrid.
Only La Liga eluded Ancelotti at a time when Barcelona were at their peak, but there’s certainly a sense of opportunity around this season. Even though Atlético are the reigning champions, they’re out at 15/4 to repeat, and even though Barcelona are the favourites at 7/5, Real Madrid’s 8/5 odds at Space Casino to win La Liga speak to how open it could be. Furthermore, Barça may well be without their talisman next season.
Ancelotti will bring copious amounts of experience, a winning mentality, and even a tweaked style of play compared to what he first arrived in Spain. As he detailed to the Everton FC website, he’ll teach all players to defend well and allow attackers to use their talent and be creative. He also stands by his 4-4-2 defensive system, but is more flexible now and is willing to change the formation to suit tricky opponents.
A reliable centrepiece to join the backline
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) May 28, 2021
Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos departed Real Madrid as a free agent, leaving a massive hole in the team. The 35-year-old looks to become a core component of Paris Saint-Germain’s huge Champions League push, and in his place, David Alaba looks to take on a key defensive and leadership role.
An incredibly versatile defender, Alaba captained his nation during Euro 2020 while playing as a left-back and a centre-back. For his last club, Bayern Munich, he established himself as one of the best left-backs in the world. Then, with the emergence of Alphonso Davies, Alaba cemented himself as the team’s go-to centre-back alongside Jérôme Boateng.
He’s also a very capable defensive midfielder, which is greatly helped by his sheer athleticism and fitness. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Football Espana foresees Ancelotti rotating Alaba between centre-back and the number-six role. The new manager’s defence-first mindset will undoubtedly be helped by the arrival of Wien-native, looking destined to play alongside Raphaël Varane to forge a strong, mobile defensive unit.
La Liga is wide open right now, with a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Atlético and Barça. Los Blancos, on the other hand, have an air of stability and a renewed drive to grab the opportunity by adding two proven pieces to the team.