Carlo, Isco, Illarra – a new era for Real Madrid


Silly season is back in full swing once again, and to go with it, Real Madrid continue to spend millions upon millions. The Madrid club and José have parted ways, and replacing him is another manager with two Champions League medals to his name, Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti knows how to win Champions Leagues, and that's why he's at Real Madrid

Ancelotti knows how to win Champions Leagues, and that’s why he’s at Real Madrid

The Champions League is all that Real Madrid care about in this era. They hoped Mourinho would be the man to deliver “la décima” – “the tenth” – and they hoped even more so to be able to do that a couple of years ago in their own Santiago Bernabéu stadium, which hosted the final in 2010. Mourinho came, saw, and conquered that day with Inter Milan, and decided he’d like to stay in Madrid for another few years, unable to refuse the contract offered to him by Florentino Pérez. But Ancelotti is the new man in charge, and he’s a manager who knows how to win a Champions League.

The Italian won two European cups as a player with AC Milan, and two more Champions Leagues with the club as manager. Ancelotti spent a total of 13 years with the San Siro outfit, and eight of those were as manager. He knew the club very well; he knew the owners, the backroom staff, the players, the tradition, and the fans. He knew them so well, because he spent such a long time working with them. The Rossoneri put their faith in him as a long-term project, and it paid off hugely for them in 2003 and 2007, when he brought home Europe’s most-sought trophy.

Real Madrid is one of the clubs most defined by their owner in the world. Florentino Pérez decides what players come to Real Madrid more than the manager, and routinely likes to place blame on the manager and fires them when things don’t work out on the pitch. Ancelotti can do very well at Madrid, but it’s always difficult to deliver straight away, just ask Mourinho. He’ll need time to implement his style of play, mentality, and ideals into the playing squad, and that’s something that history shows us Pérez isn’t very accommodating toward.

However, the appointment of Ancelotti as potentially a long-term project is something that should excite Real Madrid fans, if that’s the mindset that Florentino Pérez was in when choosing to hire him. Given the right equipment, which Real Madrid can provide and do seem to be doing just that, Ancelotti can build a dynasty in the Spanish capital, especially when the club’s playing squad transfer policy for this summer so far is examined.

Isco with the 2013 European Under-21 trophy

Isco with the 2013 European Under-21 trophy

Isco and Illarra, 2013 European Under-21 Champions with Spain, are new Real Madrid players. Isco was a fundamental part to the Champions League semi-final reaching Málaga team under new Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, and without Asier Illarramendi, Real Sociedad may not have had the capabilities to finish 4th in the league last season and qualify for this year’s Champions League campaign.

Both players had the best seasons of their career to date in 2012/13, and were rewarded with big money moves to one of the biggest clubs in the world. Illarramendi signed after Real Madrid decided to activate the buy-out clause in his contract, paying a total of €38,949,900 (€6.75 million being tax,) while Isco signed for around €27 million. €66 million is a lot of money to spend on any two players, but the fact that it was spent on a 21 year old and a 23 year old suggests that perhaps the club might know that Ancelotti can work wonders when given the time to mould these already fantastic young players. Higuaín looks to be on his way out of Madrid, while Kaká has never really been the same Kaká he was when wearing the Milan shirt, but perhaps being reunited with the man that brought him to Europe in the first place might revitalize the Brazilian playmaker. Or he’ll just be sold as there are players in the squad now in much better form than he is and as much as ten years his junior.

Asier Illarramendi is looked at as being the long-term replacement for Xabi Alonso, an integral cog in both the Real Madrid and Spain machines. Interestingly both players began their careers at Real Sociedad, making their way through the youth system. Both also carry a similar on-field presence, starting moves from deep, intelligently keeping the ball moving around the field, and brilliantly putting their teams in the most advantageous positions. Perhaps a year or two under Alonso’s tutelage and mentorship will help form one of the most important players Real Madrid and Spain will have for the next ten years or so.

This kind of forethought hasn’t been the way Madrid have conducted themselves in the transfer market of late. Breaking the world transfer fee records twice in the same summer (2009) and bringing in the world’s best available Galacticos for Mourinho to play with has yielded one league title and one cup in a total of three years, simply not good enough for Florentino Pérez, and perhaps enough to encourage him into hiring with a different approach.

It’s apparent to me that Real Madrid are buying big, but buying cleverly – cleverly in a way that’s different to the way they have been of late. They have a manager who knows how to win Champions Leagues and knows how to perform in Europe, and he’s being equipped with some of the best young talents Spain has to offer. More players may also arrive, and they may be older and may already be superstars. But Isco and Illarramendi are two of the best players in La Liga already, and deserve to be playing regularly even in this super-rich Real Madrid side who can buy almost anybody they like.  The Ancelotti era is sure to be totally different to the Mourinho one, as long as Florentino Pérez lets it be.

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