Carlo Ancelotti guided Real Madrid to another Champions League victory on Wednesday night at the expense of his former club Chelsea.
The Italian had a successful two-year spell at Stamford Bridge, leading the Blues to their first ever domestic double in his first season in charge. They won both the Premier League and FA Cup in 2010, but he was dismissed after they finished second behind Manchester United the following campaign.
He enjoyed arguably the finest campaign of his career last season as he guided Madrid to winning both LaLiga and the Champions League, the latter by overseeing a series of scarcely-believable comeback victories over Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City, before beating Liverpool in the final.
However, speculation has been growing around his future amid a disappointing LaLiga campaign – Los Blancos are a whopping 13 points off Barcelona in the title race. They did destroy their Catalan rivals at the Camp Nou in their Copa del Rey semi-final to set up a showpiece against Osasuna next month.
There had even been suggestions that the Italian could make a sensational return to Stamford Bridge this summer. Frank Lampard has been appointed on an interim basis until the end of the campaign but the role will be vacant at the end of the campaign.
Addressing that speculation ahead of this clash, Ancelotti explained of his relationship with the Blues: “I am sad, yes, I am. I have a fantastic memory of my time at this club. The people who are still working there.
“I am a supporter of Chelsea, of course. I spent two great years there. It was really nice there, but will I be back? No!
“I think and hope that Lampard will be able to do a fantastic job with them.”
Ancelotti was being kind. Chelsea are in a mess at the moment – a bloated squad with no tactical direction and no firm idea of what they want to be. In many ways, the Italian would be the perfect fit for them: his calm man-management and ability to mould a team with the guidance of his star players.
He remains an elite coach for his flexibility and remarkable track record of success. It would surprise nobody if he guides the Spanish giants to another European title this year, against the odds, alongside adding another Copa del Rey medal to his enviable awards cabinet.
Real Madrid are in total control of this quarter final as they secured a comfortable victory without ever really hitting top gear. Star players Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric were the standout performers, as they so often are on this stage.
Chelsea have had four different managers this season but have lacked the calm leadership that Ancelotti has provided for Real Madrid. A settled 4-3-3 and a starting line-up that, bar one or two positions, picks itself. How envious Chelsea must be of that.
Todd Boehly’s ownership model has appeared to be erratic and reckless throughout his opening 12 months in west London. An extortionate £550million spent on transfer fees to be in the bottom half of the Premier League table and ending the season trophy-less.
Next week’s tie at Stamford Bridge may be Chelsea’s last game in the Champions League for several seasons. One decision which could speed up their return would be weighing up a move for Ancelotti, whose control, style and self-assurance was summed up by his remarkable keepy-ups on the touchline as his side cruised to victory.