By Steve Njuguna
Everyone these days associates Carlo Ancelotti with success and greatness.
Fans respect him greatly.
That wasn’t always the case in the early stages of his coaching career.
When Don Carlo was a young talented manager at Parma in the mid 90’s he built up a side of exceptional talent with the likes of Gigi Buffon, Hernan Crespo and Enrique Chiesa (Father of Euro 2020 star Federico Chiesa). His tactical flexibility made him a hot property in the coaching scene.
In 1999 Juventus decided to take a chance on him and immediately the fans were really pissed. At the training ground in Turin they held up a huge sign saying in Italian, ‘The pig cannot coach’.
This was a contemptuous dig aimed at Ancelotti’s agricultural upbringing as his father was a rancher who reared livestock.
This set the tempo for two of Ancelotti’s most challenging seasons in his career. He had to deal with talented but fiery characters in the dressing room like midfielders Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Edgar Davids. His problems were compounded by the fact that mercurial striker Alessandro Del Piero got a career-changing injury a few weeks into the new season and was out for a year.
The club tried to replace him by signing a young Thierry Henry but Ancelotti never considered him a striker and played him at left wing, a position that forced Henry to take up defensive duties and not play freely. That experiment failed magnificently. At some point the club almost sold Henry to Udinese but Arsene Wenger swooped in for him after a season and the rest is history.
Ancelotti’s Juve fell short of winning any trophy in the two years he was there and Juventus fans were always baying for his blood. They also had the tendency to crumble in big moments as evidenced by how they collapsed in the 1999 Champions league semifinal against Manchester United where they were leading 2-0 after 20 minutes and were clear on aggregate but ended up conceding soft goals to Roy Keane and Andy Cole that saw United into the final against Bayern Munich.
In the league he lost the title to his old club Parma on the last day of the season despite only needing a win from his last three games.
He ended up being sacked at halftime in the final home game of the season in the 00/01 season, an ultimate final humiliation.
It was a blessing in disguise for Don Carlo for immediately he left Juventus he joined AC Milan and in an eight year spell, he won the Champions league and UEFA super cup twice, won the Club World Cup and also won the league and Coppa Italia before going on to successful stints at Chelsea, Bayern, Real Madrid and PSG.
The article was first published on his Facebook account.