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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The idea was clear. Sacked by Napoli two weeks ago, Carlo Ancelotti was destined for the Pacific coast with his Canadian wife, Mariann.
Instead, he found himself in an executive box at Goodison Park, looking out of the window at a rare blue sky as he was unveiled by Everton. “I brought the weather from Italy,” he smiled. “I was planning the holiday in Vancouver but everything changed so quickly but it is good to be here.”
It was not something perhaps Everton’s most improbable managerial appointment could say on his previous visit to Goodison. It was May 2011 when a glorious solo goal from Jermaine Beckford meant his second season at Chelsea reached a dispiriting end. So, abruptly, did Ancelotti’s time in Premier League management.
“I was sacked in the corridor there,” he said, able to joke about his fate. “I think you have to put a little plaque: ‘Here was sacked...’” Sackings have become commonplace at Goodison Park. Ancelotti was unveiled as the fifth manager of Farhad Moshiri’s reign as owner.
He is also, by some distance, the most glamorous, the triple Champions League winner who has inherited a team 15th in the Premier League.
The perception is that it will be difficult for them to be anything other than the fourth biggest club in the north-west. Ancelotti disagrees.
“It will not be easy and it takes time,” said a manager who has signed a contract until 2024. “For a top club, victory is to win trophies, to win the league. The goal for Everton in this period is to try to be as close as possible to the top of the table. But the goal, the ambition and the passion of the club and the fact that the training ground is absolutely beautiful [were factors]. It was easy to make the decision. There are all the conditions where we can do something special.”
To do that, Ancelotti must realise the potential of Everton’s expensively-assembled group. “This squad until now it didn’t reach the level that the quality of this squad [should have] in my personal opinion,” the Italian said. It was a reminder there is steel behind the smile.
“I am not a sergeant,” he said. “The players have to know what I like: that they take responsibility for themselves and discipline. This is really important. I can use the whip sometimes. I don’t like to use the whip because no one used the whip in my life against me but I am able to do this.”
Consider it a warning, perhaps. Everton have erred in the transfer market too often, but Ancelotti deflected suggestions he will sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic in January. “I have to call him,” he said. “If he wants to come to Liverpool to enjoy, he can come, but not to play.”
Instead, he is heartened by the next generation of talent and the two old-stagers in defence. A man who has won league titles in four countries drew upon his vast knowledge of the European game for a comparison.
“They are really good players, young and some experienced players. There are players like [Seamus] Coleman and [Leighton] Baines who have a strong sense of belonging at this club.
"You see in the history of football; you see Milan – a fantastic team with a lot of players from the academy. Barcelona was the same. So the sense of belonging is really important. You have to invest but make the right choice.”
Baines scored a spectacular 119th-minute equaliser to allow Everton to win a penalty shootout against Ancelotti’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. “In the FA Cup, Leighton Baines scored at the last,” Ancelotti said. “I am going to remind him now.” His CV contains much but not a victory against his new employers.
“I never beat Everton,” he said. “David Moyes was my nightmare.” It is not a sentence many managers have said in recent years but Ancelotti can endear himself to Evertonians with his record against their rivals.
He has beaten Liverpool twice each with Real Madrid, Napoli and Chelsea, as well as in a Champions League final with AC Milan. Exclude Liverpool’s youth team’s Carabao Cup defeat to Aston Villa and their sole loss this season came to Ancelotti’s Napoli.
“Yesterday I was walking in the city and everyone was kind,” he said. “Liverpool is a football city: you can smell there is football everywhere here.” The red half also greeted him but he noted: “They are afraid. They are worried to see me because I beat them a lot of times.”
Updated: December 24, 2019 08:14 AM
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