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Berlusconi is best ignored

Roberto Gotta

Ease yourself into Carlo Ancelotti's shoes. Milan president and owner Silvio Berlusconi does that regularly, by suggesting his team manager select this or that player, but Ancelotti usually does whatever he feels - and there have been no consequences so far.

Things got funny after Milan's crucial come-from-behind win in the Milano derby against Inter, whose second-half performance after being up 2-0 was so hapless it is a wonder current Lazio coach Roberto Mancini would really accept to take the poisoned chalice, as he's increasingly rumoured to be doing next summer.

Afterwards Berlusconi said he will write a letter this week and request that all Milan coaches from now on ('Although I hope Ancelotti stays with us until he reaches old age...') play with two strikers.

It wasn't until Ancelotti had brought on Jon Dahl Tomasson that Milan turned the game around, so Berlusconi - who's never shied away from giving his two millions' worth of advice - added: 'We must always remember who we are, what we stand for, our history in Italy and Europe, so we can't play with one striker only. When we play Inter, when we play in Turin and in Rome, we must play with two.'

Draw your own conclusions about Berlusconi (proud, meddlesome, despotic, cavalier, etc., but remember, he's paying the wages of everyone at Milan and as such is entitled to speak his mind).

The Italian press has been devoting plenty of space - there are, after all, many blank pages to be filled every day, especially in the sports dailies - to comment and opinion about these comments and his subsequent live phone call to Italy's long-running Sunday night show 'La Domenica Sportiva', when he reiterated those words.

But what about the man he had dinner with on Sunday night, Ancelotti? What's he supposed to do from now on? Well, nothing more than he's been doing since he was named as Milan's coach, in November 2001, when he replaced the disappointing Fatih Terim.

Berlusconi, by the way, had voiced his preference for a two-pronged attack last year, too, and has a history of speaking his mind on tactical and personnel matters. In 1988 he chose Argentinian striker Claudio Borghi over Frank Rijkaard but his directors and coaches made him change his mind. Borghi was loaned out to Como, never to be heard from again.

In the run-in to Milan's 16th Scudetto in 1999, Berlusconi whispered (loudly, so that everyone could hear) in coach Alberto Zaccheroni's ear that Zvonimir Boban should always play behind George Weah and Oliver Bierhoff, although Zaccheroni always maintained it was his idea.

Not that it required a beautiful mind to sort that out, did it? Ancelotti knows pressure: he started his coaching career as an assistant to Arrigo Sacchi for the national team in 1994, a decision which did not go down well with some who thought Sacchi was merely helping one of his former players pad his curriculum vitae in order to eventually launch a career in club management.

Born in 1959, Ancelotti had been an influential, combative midfielder for Sacchi and Milan, at the end of a very good playing career which saw him win Scudettos with Roma in 1983 and, of course, the Rossoneri in 1988 and 1992.

He was the typical coach in the middle of the park, directing team-mates and generally dictating play, although he was never the most athletic player around. After his stint with the national team, which lost the 1994 World Cup final on penalties, Ancelotti joined Serie B Reggiana in 1995 and immediately took them up, only to receive a good offer from Parma, which posed him a dilemma.

He was born in Reggiolo near Reggio Emilia, so his appointment by Reggiana had been a homecoming of sorts, and he'd played for local rivals Parma so his return to manage what was then Calisto Tanzi's team was seen as a betrayal by Reggiana fans.

Ancelotti finished second in the 1996-97 season at the helm of Parma. Which didn't look so bad then, but it would prove to be the first of many near-misses that would haunt him, earning him the odious reputation as a nearly man, one that would do well but never win the top prize.

Such was, infamously, his plight at Juventus, whom he joined in February 1999: as a former Milan and Roma stalwart, he was under fire from a section of Juve fans, whose crass displays of hatred for him included displaying his caricature as a pig - a reference to his rotund, hearty face as much as for his love of the countryside (he still says, 'I do not feel offended if they call me a farmer, I AM a farmer').

Those classy fans got what they deserved when Juve twice just failed to win the Scudetto: in 1999-2000 they were just beaten by Lazio, while twelve months later it was Roma who just nosed ahead of them.

Ancelotti was replaced by the returning Lippi, whose stint at Inter had hardly produced anything memorable, and was all set to re-join Parma when Milan came calling, and the Parma directors agreed to tear up the contract without compensation, behaviour which may help explain why everybody who was employed by Parma during the Tanzi regime has but kind words for a person who is allegedly responsible for one of the worst financial crimes in Italian history.

Despite his still-fresh Juventus past, Ancelotti was accepted at Milan. The Rossoneri fans had memories of his performances and of his status as a Milan-bred coach, as much as Fabio Capello had been.

Capello himself had been accused of being just another 'raccomandato', a person helped more by connections and old-boy networks than actual ability, when he had started his coaching career after being groomed in the youth team then going on to become a director, then a TV commentator for Berlusconi's Mediaset.

Capello is now of the the best coaches in Europe and those suspicions are long forgotten, and the same has become true of Ancelotti, 'l'eterno secondo' (the perennial bridesmaid), after his success in winning the Champions League last season.

But it is worth to remember that Ancelotti's job was on the line late last year, after Milan had faltered in the Scudetto race, and that the all-Milano Champions League semi-final was seen by many as a derby of the losers between Ancelotti and Hector Cuper who, typically for him and Inter, lost out on a place in the Final without losing either of the two matches.

Ironically, Berlusconi's 'warning' meets with Ancelotti's approval: starting a match with a lone striker supported by Rui Costa and Kaka, then switching to a two-striker set-up is perhaps better than the other way around and hardly amounts to a negative approach.

It is interesting to note that Ancelotti had a reputation as a coach suspicious of wild talent: it was under him that Thierry Henry was used mainly as a left winger and let go to Arsenal. And Ancelotti also did not stop Parma selling Gianfranco Zola to Chelsea and turned down Roberto Baggio on a free transfer.

But his ability to adapt to the personnel at his disposal has been remarkable and he now fields no less than two attack-minded players each time, following his own rather than his chairman's inclinations, so perhaps Berlusconi's desire and directives will fall on benevolent ears and it will all end in a very Italian way: a lot of words and things will remain as they were.

Not that there's much wrong in that, with Milan leading the Serie A by five points and still in contention in the Champions League.

2,725 Posts
I think we already have the exact same thread posted by our very own copy paster Carson35

11,208 Posts
Berlusconi can voice his opinion but it is clear to see that in the big games Milan plays superbly with a forward and all out striker.

If he wants us to play two outright strikers then he can open his cash book and get Van Nistelrooy to partner Sheva as his gift to the team. :)

Carlo is doing a fine job and he is getting the results on the board and this Milan side is breaking records and getting wins in places where we haven't won for a long long time.

We win even without some key men absent and are playing well as a strong cohesive unit. Carlo has come a long way from being an alleged bridesmaid to a true winner! He is setting up a strong foundation to be remembered as one of the most respected Milan player and coach.
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