Carlo Ancelottis first press conference at Santiago Bernabeu was more of a PR exercise than a football affair. The 54-year-old Italian was presented as a soccer sage by Real Madrid and the new manager has been told to build bridges. Of course, at Real Madrid, there will always be the pressure of winning a 10th European title, but that doesnt appear to be the top priority for the management at the moment. For club president Florentino Perez and his associates, its about rebuilding the reputation.
During his three-year stint, Jose Mourinho has done enough to damage the reputation of this great club and Real now need an image makeover. Contrary to the club ethos, Mourinho never mind winning ugly. He jabbed a finger in the eye of Tito Vilanova when the latter was Pep Guardiolas assistant at Barcelona. He had his regular run-ins with the Barcelona players and coaching staff and then divided his own dressing room, sidelining and humiliating a legend like Iker Casillas. That was, however, the beginning of his end. Get out chants serenaded the self-styled special one during his last match at Real. Xavi and Andres Iniesta slammed Mourinho for his Casillas slight. Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubi tore him apart for his undignified methods.
There was nothing he (Mourinho) brought that was good. There was no positive balance. I cannot see anything good about him. The ambience he creates everywhere he goes, the relations with the players, with the press, are absolutely terrible, Vilarrubi was quoted as saying. Ancelotti is a man of dignity and his primary job will be to play the role of a peacemaker (his comment notwithstanding).
On the football front, top on his agenda will be to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at the club. Manchester United desperately want to bring their beloved Ronnie back to Old Trafford, but Ancelotti has already made an overture, saying it would be an honour to coach the Portuguese master. On a day when Ancelotti was unveiled as Reals new manager, Guardiola conducted his first training session for Bayern Munich in front of about 10,000 fans at the Allianz Arena in Munich. The Bavarians won the treble last season under Jupp Heynckes, still they have a new coach this time. And the Spaniard, who won 14 trophies in four years at Barcelona, knows he will have to live up to the standards. I accept this challenge without fear and this is why Im the coach, said Guardiola, coming back to mainstream football from a year-long sabbatical.
Guardiola has some finest talents at his disposal. Now Mario Gotze, too, has arrived from Borussia Dortmund. Bayern achieved everything last season, still Guardiola was brought in to shore up the stocks. The 42-year-old is now arguably the biggest brand in football coaching after Sir Alex Fergusons retirement. He has arrived in Germany to teach Bastian Schweinsteiger & Co how to mix tiki-taka with German resolve and technique. And if he can do that successfully then theres a possibility that Bayern will surpass Manchester United and Barcelona as the games biggest brand.
Swansea City defender Neil Taylor dropped in at Kolkata a few days ago to be a part of a community programme. He spoke about how the Premier League is going to be without Ferguson and suggested that Mourinhos return to the worlds most popular football league will make things interesting for the press and public.
Mourinho will give the league a new dimension, said the young defender. Indeed, the Portuguese showman knows how to grab the limelight and the Fleet Street will revel in his presence. At Chelsea, however, everything runs on Roman Abramovichs whims. Roberto Di Matteo lost his job just six months after winning the Champions League. Rafa Benitez wasnt offered an extension even after winning the Europa League. The hype around Mourinho notwithstanding, he too could be just three loses away from being shown the door. Already Benitez, who now is the Napoli coach, has taken a dig at his Chelsea successor. I dont know what Mourinho does. But I never cross the line of sportsmanship, he said.
So, life is not going to be easy for Mourinho at the Bridge. He would be under the scanner after what happened at Real Madrid. But the man is used to perform under pressure and there will be no shortage of excitement when he is there at the dug-out.
Manuel Pellegrinis civil engineering degree has earned him a sobriquet, The Engineer. Can he fix Manchester Citys problems After the rise in 2011-12, City have fallen spectacularly last season and Roberto Mancini became the fall guy. Pellegrini replaced him at the Etihad with a clear instruction from upstairs that he will have to try to win everything. The 59-year-old Chilean did wonderful things with Malaga last season but it is impossible to win everything in football. City can win odd titles, but they will never grow as a team as long as the club management doesnt accept a simple truth billion dollars do not a champion make.
Finally David Moyes. Fergusons successor will work in an atmosphere that thrives on stability. The contract that United have given to their new manager suggests that they want Moyes to be the new Ferguson. Moyes also has the privilege of having a very united dressing room. But apart from sorting out the Wayne Rooney problem as soon as possible, his main job will be to ensure that the Red Devils dont lose their aura.
Pressure was steadily building on Arsene Wenger towards the end of the last season but a fourth-place finish has given him a breathing space. Wenger must win something this time. Arsenal fans have been suffering for a long time now. Its not easy to keep the morale high after eight trophy-less years. Those who fill up the Emirates on weekends go their to see their favourite club winning silverwares, not to take an account of right checks and balances.
The good news is that at last Wenger looks keen on doing some quality shopping and bringing in a few world-class stars. Arsenal have to get rid of mediocrity. Laurent Blanc, too, has a point or two to prove as Paris Saint-Germains new coach. During his two-year stint as France coach, Blanc struggled to make peace with the star players. It would be interesting to see how he manages Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So, a new season beckons with so many possibilities for change. Roll on August.