Last week, when Bayern Munich unveiled its new coach, it served bruschetta, penne with zucchini and vitello tonnato. Three years ago, it offered tapas, Serrano ham and crema Catalana. An Italian, Carlo Ancelotti, had replaced the Spaniard, Pep Guardiola. The introductions, however, had some similarities.
“I’m not here to usher in a revolution. Guardiola did a fantastic job,” said Ancelotti, who inherits a team that won three straight Bundesliga titles and two German Cups under Guardiola.
In 2013, Guardiola praised his predecessor, the German Jupp Heynckes, and promised only “small changes” for the team in the previous season won the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup.
Bayern had signed Guardiola to replace Heynckes five months before he wrapped up the treble, thereby putting the former Barcelona man in the awkward position of replacing a coach who had pulled off the perfect season.
Bayern cruised to Bundesliga titles under Guardiola but he failed to take it to a Champions League final. He left Bayern because of his desire to coach in the English Premier League, having announced his move to Manchester City four months before the season’s end, and Bayern wasted no time in signing Ancelotti. The 57-year-old Italian was available because after Real Madrid fired him in 2015 he took a hiatus in Vancouver.
Bayern Coaches: Last Decade
Coach (year) title
Carlo Ancelotti (2016-)
Pep Guardiola (2013-16) Bundesliga (3), German Cup (2), Club World Cup (1)
Jupp Heynckes (2011-13) Bundesliga (1), German Cup (1), Club World Cup (1)
Louis van Gaal (2009-11) Bundesliga (1), German Cup (1)
Jurgen Klinsmann (2008-09) none
Ottmar Hitzfeld (2007-08) Bundesliga (1)
Felix Magath (2004-07) Bundesliga (2), German Cup (2)
Ancelotti had failed to win La Liga in two seasons at Real Madrid, but he achieved the main task he was hired for -- guiding Real Madrid to the 2014 Champions League title, the prize that eluded his Real predecessor, Jose Mourinho.
Ancelotti won two European Cups as a player (1989, 1990) and two Champions League titles as a coach (2003, 2007) with AC Milan before the Real Madrid victory. Winning one with Bayern is his main challenge, as lifting the Bundesliga “Salad Bowl” is the minimum expectation for the club that has won the last four.
“We saw under Pep the best, most beautiful, most exciting soccer that we’ve had at FC Bayern in the last 50, 60 years,” said Bayern legend and club ambassador Paul Breitner. “But Ancelotti is a perfect, 100 percent suitable successor.
“I know Carlo. He is an intelligent, clever man. I am sure he appreciates the team he’s inherited and what Pep has achieved in the last three years.
Breitner added that Bayern has the “best roster in the world” and if Ancelotti instituted radical change, he’d be guided to the nearest insane asylum.
Ancelotti’s first game in charge was a meager 4-3 win over fifth division SV Lippstadt in which 21-year-old German-American Julian Green scored the first goal. But that game demonstrated just how deep Bayern is by the players still on vacation because of recent national team duty: Germans Manuel Neuer, Thomas Mueller, Jerome Boateng, Joshua Kimmich and Mats Hummels, Pole Robert Lewandowski, Portugal’s Renato Sanches, Frenchman Kingsley Coman, Brazilian Douglas Costa and Chile’s Arturo Vidal.
Such a star-studded team suits Ancelotti, whose players once nicknamed him the Diva Whisperer for his ability to handle superstars. He dealt with Zlatan Ibrahimovic while guiding Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 to its first title in 19 years. (Ibrahimovic posed to Ancelotti that if he believed in God, “You can believe in me.”)
While winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, Ancelotti changed his favored 4-4-2 formation because Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to play wide, upfront. (“Why would I change the position of a player, against his will, who scores 60 goals a season?” said Ancelotti)
His plans for Bayern, Ancelotti says, are to continue playing the attacking soccer that brings joy to the fans, which he says doesn’t require much change.
“Guardiola’s style at Bayern Munich was very, very good,” said Ancelotti. “Naturally I want bring in my own idea of soccer this year but I believe Guardiola’s work in the last three years will also be important for this season. … Bayern Munich has a fantastic tradition that I want to continue. We want to play attacking soccer. I love to play attacking soccer.”
More difficult will be the main task for which he’s been hired.
“Of course, we want to win the Champions League. But there are many teams that want it.”