Now, though, he finds himself on the other side of the divide. The Everton job, he said, is not so different than it appears from the outside. “It is exactly the same,” he said. The fundamental challenge a manager faces is that all of the players want to play. “It doesn’t matter if they earn a lot of money, if they are famous,” he said. “They want to play. That is the good aspect of this world.
“I have managed superstars — Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic — but they are superstars outside the training ground. The atmosphere outside builds the superstar. In the dressing room, they are exactly the same. At the end, I have to manage people, not players. They are not players: They are people who play football. I am not a manager. I am a man that works as a manager. I think this is an important point.”
However dazzling a player’s talent, however vast their profile, however high their ambitions, his task is still to build a rapport with them, to “manage them when they are sad,” to tell them to “celebrate their successes and manage their defeats,” to convince them to believe in his ideas, to persuade them to share their thoughts with him. That reciprocity, he said, is crucial. “I got a lot of my ideas from the players,” he said.
He is there to provide balance. Last season at Everton was a tortured one; he needed to restore faith (though he demurs from the idea that he actually did it). Now that the whole club is floating on air, he has to prevent his players from getting carried away.
This is all exactly what he did at Real and A.C. Milan and at Bayern Munich. What is different now, he concedes, is the context. There are, in Ancelotti’s worldview, two types of club: company clubs and family clubs. He has, it is no surprise to learn, largely worked at company clubs. There, the job is to arrive and to win.
At family clubs, the task is different. “It is to build something, to leave your stamp on a team,” he said. “You live better, work better in a family club. You can be more yourself. The target for every manager is to train the top teams. But also to fight to build a top team can be a great motivation.”