Carlo Ancelotti shares a destiny with Liverpool. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Carlo Ancelotti was always supposed to end up living in Liverpool. Once he did, he found that he loved the coastline more than he had expected.
After moving to Merseyside in 2019, the veteran Italian coach was regularly spotted by locals walking his three family dogs along Crosby beach, a two-and-half mile stretch of sand dunes, stone-coloured sea water and promenade which stares out towards Ireland.
‘It’s a beautiful place,’ Ancelotti told the New York Times. ‘It’s close to the sea. There’s a beautiful beach. A long beach. There is really nice cycling, really nice walks. You can walk all the way to Formby on the coastal path. There are the Gormley statues, 100 of them, on the beach. I really like it.’
For almost fifteen years, since the 2005 Champions League final he lost with AC Milan in Istanbul when Liverpool came from 3-0 down at half-time to win on penalties, Ancelotti’s fate had been to end up in Liverpool. That night, in the most infamous ever running of European football’s showpiece event, his and the Reds’ respective destinies became one, bound by the twisted metaphysics of football. Years later, Ancelotti spoke of the sheer power of the influence Liverpool and its people had on him in Turkey.
‘It’s always been a club that excites me,’ he told reporters in 2014. ‘The You’ll Never Walk Alone they sing is incredible. Nobody sings an anthem like Liverpool fans. Sometimes I look for it on the internet and put it on for my friends. It’s something really unique, seriously.
‘I remember when we played them in Istanbul and we were winning 3-0 at the break. There were 45,000 Liverpool fans in the ground singing You’ll Never Walk Alone for 10 minutes. It was incredible and for an Italian it was a shock.’
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The thrill and beauty of football — and the fact it continues endlessly, constantly — means that so many players and coaches like Ancelotti become locked into shared histories with different places and people around the world, which at the outset of their careers they would never have even dreamed of visiting or spending their lives with.
Ultimately Ancelotti ended up with an L postcode not because he was coaching Liverpool, finally taking the place in the Anfield dugout which seemed to be drawing him slowly in over the years like a magnet, but instead to unexpectedly be managing Everton. Instead of finally sharing one combined future with Liverpool, Ancelotti was instead defining the true nature of his relationship with the club, as its paramount friendly foe.
He had come relatively close to the Liverpool job previously, in 2015, when Jurgen Klopp decided to end his sabbatical early in order to replace the sacked Brendan Rodgers. Had Klopp opted to complete the year out he planned on taking after his departure from Borussia Dortmund, Ancelotti was second favourite and out of work.
Carlo Ancelotti won the Champions League final with AC Milan against Liverpool in Athens before 2007. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Back in 2014, during Ancelotti’s first spell with Real Madrid, his team humiliated Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool by outplaying them in every department in a chastening win at Anfield before Rodgers selected a reserve side for the subsequent defeat at the Bernabeu, admitting defeat before the match had even kicked off. These are two of the defining losses Liverpool have suffered since being purchased by owners Fenway Sports Group in 2010, and played a significant role in the worsening of Rodgers’ relationship with supporters, his sacking, and Klopp’s eventual trophy-laden reign as manager.
Since Klopp took over at Anfield, he has not struggled against any adversary as much as Ancelotti. The Italian won two, drew one and lost one of four Champions League group stage fixtures against the Reds with Napoli in 2018 and 2019, using a narrow 4-4-2 shape to nullify the pace in behind and creative width which Klopp’s system relies on.
Then Ancelotti managed Everton’s first Merseyside derby victory at Anfield since 1999, vanquishing two decades’ worth of pain and fury for a set of supporters whose outlook has become increasingly tunnel-visioned on Liverpool as the number of years their team has gone without winning a trophy has snowballed.
Carlo Ancelotti will be taking part in his fifth Champions League final when Real Madrid face Liverpool in Paris. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Ancelotti will be aiming for an unprecedented fourth victory in the European Cup final when his latest Real Madrid side takes on Liverpool in Paris on Saturday evening, which would take him clear of former Reds manager Bob Paisley and Los Blancos’ own Zinedine Zidane. Across his spells with AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Napoli, and Everton, Ancelotti has faced Liverpool on 16 separate occasions, including those two Champions League finals with Milan in 2005 and 2007. Of those 16 fixtures, Liverpool have won only four.
Earlier this month the Italian broke another record, becoming the first manager in the history of the game to win a league title in the top divisions of all of Italy, England, France, Germany, and Spain.
With his track record of success across the continent and his borderline sentient eyebrows, Ancelotti is one of the most ubiquitous men in contemporary football, combining a world-class ability to coach elite level footballers with an elegant demeanour and understated sarcasm which gives him a rare air of both warmth and pristine professionalism.
Carlo Ancelotti returned to manage Real Madrid for a second time in 2021. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
That so many of the defining moments of Ancelotti’s career and Liverpool’s modern history have dovetailed so elegantly is in part pure luck, part down to the consistent sporting excellence of both, and part that sheer spiritual power football has to pull the same protagonists together time and again across eras.
On Saturday night a new entry in the shared history of Liverpool Football Club and Carlo Ancelotti will be written beneath the smoky Parisian sunset. Regardless of who takes home the trophy, the glue that binds the two together will only set harder.
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