Plotting to win the UEFA Champions League for a fourth time in his first season as Bayern boss, Carlo Ancelotti has been thrown a curveball with a quarter-final tie against his old side, Real Madrid – coached by one of his old charges, Zinédine Zidane. The 57-year-old spoke to UEFA.com.
You managed Zinédine Zidane at Juventus from 1999 to 2001; did you expect him to have such a big impact as Real Madrid boss?
Carlo Ancelotti: He is a great coach already. I always said he had what it takes to be a good manager, but he started from the bottom. He was my assistant [at Real Madrid], then he managed Castilla [Real Madrid’s reserve team]. Your experience as a player is only partially useful when you become a manager, because you also have to study, you have to keep up to date and gain your own experiences, and Zidane has done that. He’s charismatic and the players really respect him, and that’s very important.
England, Spain, France and now Germany – how important is it for you to get to know a culture, as a person and as a manager?
Ancelotti: I was worried when I first left Italy in 2009, but I’ve felt comfortable everywhere I have gone, and I also believe these experiences motivate you to do more things: learning a new language, experiencing new cultures, new traditions, new players. It was and still is a very interesting experience.
In Bavaria, the heat feels similar to Italy. Munich is a very clean city where there are rules that are respected by everyone. It’s a calm city. People respect your private life. You’re not always in the public eye, so you can live in peace.
You took some time out in Vancouver before taking over at Bayern. How important was that?
Ancelotti: I had the chance to take a year out, and I chose to do it because, after 20 years, I felt like I’d earned a rest. But I spent the year continually watching football.
Before you took over, did you spend time studying how Bayern played under Josep Guardiola?
Ancelotti: Yes, but there are lots of players that I knew about, so I was already impressed. When I arrived, they were already doing lots of things really well, and they continue to do so. The work Guardiola did was very important for them.
Every manager has their own philosophy. I want to maintain the good aspects of this squad. I’m looking to make us more attacking, and to ensure we have more possession. We already have a lot of possession, but I want us to use it in a more attacking way.
You have won the UEFA Champions League once as a player and three times as a coach. How do things change when the knockout stage starts?
Ancelotti: It’s different because you cannot calculate too much, and as far as I’m concerned, I just try to focus on our strengths. You have to be brave and show character. If you do, you can achieve results, but if you’re frightened it’s more difficult.
It would be quite special to win it again, especially for this club. The club have played in two semi-finals in the last two years, so they’ve been close, and I’d like to win it because of that.
You are in charge at Bayern, while Antonio Conte is managing Chelsea; what is it about Italian coaches that makes you so successful?
Ancelotti: The Italian school of managers is very innovative when it comes to education. I learned a lot, and having had experience in Italy – considering Italian football is played in a different way – makes you more creative and more meticulous when you’re preparing for a match.