Ancelotti and the Germans
The Bundesliga season will get underway on Friday night with virtual reality broadcast ready to make its first appearance in German football. Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti is embarking on a new challenge, as his Bundesliga debut will make him the only manager to lead a club in all five of Europe’s top football leagues. Ahead of the curtain-raiser against Werder Bremen, we look back at the illustrious manager’s previous meetings with German teams.
Ancelotti garnered a reputation as a commanding midfielder in a successful era for Italian football. He started his professional career with Parma before signing with Roma in the wake of leading I Gialloblù (The Yellow and Blues) to a Serie B promotion in 1979.
In his first season at I Giallorossi (The Yellow and Reds), Ancelotti scored Roma’s final kick in a laborious penalty-shootout win against Torino in the Coppa Italia final. The cup triumph guaranteed Roma a place in the following season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup – a tournament that lasted until 1999.
Ancelotti made the most of his European debut as Roma comfortably beat Carl Zeiss Jena in the first leg of the CWC’s first round. A fine header from Ancelotti sends Roma two goals ahead well before the half-hour mark, and they were thoroughly dominant in a 3-0 win.
But they made to pay for the missed chances in Rome, as the side from East Germany came back stronger in the return leg. Carl Zeiss Jena sealed an improbable aggregate win with Andreas Bielau scoring the winning goal three minutes from time. They even threatened to repeat Magdeburg’s unlikely feat, losing a closely-fought final to the then-Soviet Union’s Dinamo Tbilisi.
Ancelotti’s Roma had a reverse fortune against FC Cologne – who were coached by the legendary Rinus Michels at the time – two years later in the UEFA Cup. A goal from Wolfsburg’s current sporting director, Klaus Allofs, put the Germans in a good position for the return leg in Stadio Olimpico. But Roma prevailed, Brazilian international Falcão scoring a late winner.
Bayern Munich were the next opponent hailing from Germany for Ancelotti – who became the club captain under Sven-Göran Eriksson – and this time there was no doubt of the winner. Bayern progressed to the European Cup semi-final with a resounding 4-1 aggregate score line.
Ancelotti’s marquee achievement as a player was around the corner, though, as he enjoyed continental success after his move to AC Milan in 1987. He was part of the squad who won back-to-back European Cup trophies (the last team to do so). In both occasions, Milan had to grind out narrow wins against Bundesliga sides.
Before registering a memorable five-star performance against Real Madrid in the 1988-89 semi-final, in which Ancelotti opened the scoring with an absolute belter, Milan sneaked past Bremen thanks to a solitary penalty-kick from Marco van Basten. A semi-final win on away goals rule after an extra-time against Bayern was needed before Milan sealed the title the next season.
But before the successive triumphs with Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan, Ancelotti was involved in feisty Euro 1988 opener against the host nations, West Germany. His reckless challenge on a certain Lothar Matthäus left the packed stadium quiet on the stroke of halftime.
Despite wearing the number 9 in the game – in the night a left-back by the name of Paolo Maldini wears 8 – Ancelotti was a destroyer in a physical encounter between old rivals. He cautioned for another deliberate foul from behind on Matthäus in the second half. The match ended in a stalemate, and both sides lost their respective semi-final matches in the tournament.
Ancelotti finished third with Italy in the 1990 World Cup on home soil, and he returned as an assistant manager to Sacchi in the next World Cup, hosted in United States. Italy lost the unforgettable final to Brazil, and Ancelotti achieved a promotion to Serie A at Reggiana a year later.
But like his playing times, it was with Parma his management skill caught wide attention. His Parma side met defending champions Borussia Dortmund in the 1997-98 Champions League. Parma were victorious in the first meeting with Hernán Crespo’s goal before Andreas Möller’s double sank the Italians two weeks later.
Parma finished second in the group behind Dortmund, but they missed out on a knockout stage since there were only two places for the six runners-ups back then. Parma won the UEFA Cup the next season after Ancelotti’s move to Juventus.
He faced Hamburger SV in the 2000-01 group stage of the Champions League, where both clubs failed to progress at the end. The teams shared spoils in an eight-goal thriller in Hamburg, as Filippo Inzaghi completed his hat-trick with an equalizing goal from the spot in the dying minutes.
When Ancelotti was unveiled as AC Milan’s coach, the 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup with Juventus was his solitary achievement as a manager. But that was about to change in an illustrious career in another successful era of Milan. In his debut season as Milan’s coach, Ancelotti again faced Dortmund in the UEFA Cup semi-final.
The underwhelming 4-0 defeat in the first leg – with the then-Dortmund expensive player Márcio Amoroso netting a hat-trick – was too much for the Italians, despite a good start in the return fixture. Further challenges from Germany featured in the succeeding season, as Milan won the Champions League for the first time since 1993-94.
They were seeded alongside Bayern Munich in the first group stage, and Milan won both encounters, with Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side uncharacteristically finishing bottom in the group. A familiar opponent in Dortmund awaited Ancelotti in the preceding group stage, with the record champions Real Madrid also in contention.
Despite a final matchday win in San Siro, to make up for the home defeat in the reverse fixture, Dortmund faced elimination, while Milan sealed the trophy with a penalty-shootout win in an all-Italian final against Juventus. 2005-06 is the next season where Ancelotti’s Milan faced Bundesliga sides. Milan came top of the group consisting Schalke, before registering a remarkable 5-2 aggregate win against Bayern in the knockout rounds.
They repeated the feat in the next season’s quarter-finals, with a decisive win in the second leg in Munich, before taking a revenge for the famous defeat in Istanbul by beating Liverpool to lift the Champions League for the second time under Ancelotti.
In his final season at Milan, Ancelotti faced a surprise defeat by Thomas Schaaf’s Bremen in the UEFA Cup round of 32. Diego’s late equalizer at home blinks hope for Bremen in the return leg, but Milan seemingly put the result in doubt in the first half at Milan, with Andrea Pirlo converting a penalty-kick before Alexandro Pato’s stunner. But two quality headers in space of ten minutes by Claudio Pizarro changed the complexion of the game midway through the second-half, and Bremen progressed via away goals rule. Schaaf’s troops reached the final that season, losing to Mircea Lucescu’s Shakhtar Donetsk.
Premier League side Chelsea were the next stop in Ancelotti’s decorated career, but he couldn’t bring the much-needed European success to London in his two-year stay at Stamford Bridge. The script is the same in his next post at Paris Saint-Germain: Despite a success in domestic front, Ancelotti’s team couldn’t go far in Europe.
But parity restored when Ancelotti became the Real Madrid coach in the summer of 2013. For the first time since he left Milan, Ancelotti faced a competitive match against a Bundesliga side when they met Schalke in the knockout stage. It was a beginning of bigger things to come, as the players who form the BBC – Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo – each scored twice in a romping victory in the Veltins Arena.
Dortmund were the next opponent in the quarter-finals, and despite another big win in the first leg, this time in Bernabéu, Dortmund threatened to turn the scoreline a week later. If it wasn’t for Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s wastefulness in front of goal, they could easily force the match to extra-time, but Ancelotti’s side held on for a semi-final spot, where the champions Bayern were waiting for them.
The clash with Pep Guardiola ended with Ancelotti’s masterclass, as Madrid took everyone by surprise with a 4-0 win in Allianz Arena to take another step to La Décima. They defeated city rivals Atlético Madrid in the final, as Ancelotti won his sixth Champions League trophy as a player and manager.
Dortmund and Bayern were the two clubs who ruined Jose Mourinho’s chance of becoming the first coach to win the continental trophy with three clubs. But Ancelotti mastered his way to land Real Madrid’s long-awaited continental triumph before joining the list of legends who were treated unfairly by the Spanish giants.
As for Ancelotti’s connection with German football, he is ready to write a new chapter after returning from his hiatus to succeed Guardiola in Munich. The last three years saw Bayern dominate the German football like it was never seen before, but there is no time to rest on their laurels, as the most successful Champions League coach is craving for more.