Real Madrid step up when it matters to seal Ancelotti’s grand slam of titles | Sid Lowe

Emotional and empathic manager galvanised a flawed team with an ageing midfield for a canter to La Liga crownThe season that ended early with Carlo Ancelotti becoming the only manager to win all five of Europe’s major leagues started with a phone call about something completely different. If this wasn’t exactly the way they had planned it, that’s because it was better. In late May last year Zinedine Zidane announced he was leaving Real Madrid, dropping a letter bomb as he went, and the sudden search for someone to replace him wasn’t going particularly well. Until one Saturday when, discussing other deals, they told Ancelotti as much, the conversation shifting from players to coaches, an idea forming. What about me?A couple of calls later and it was done. By the Tuesday, Ancelotti had been announced as the new old manager. They briefed him but he didn’t really need them to: it was enough to know that this is Real Madrid. Sure, he had been unhappy about how they had sacked him last time, yes he was aware of the pressure and politics it brings having suffered it himself, but still: it’s Real Madrid, a second chance he never expected. “If it had been anyone else, I would have said ‘no’,” he claimed. Everton weren’t as bothered as they should have been and if some in Madrid weren’t as excited as they should have been either, Madrid had a manager.