Ancelotti: I chose to keep Di Maria because Ozil and Isco are very similar
Real Madrid manager, Carlo Ancelotti recently gave an in-depth interview following his side’s ‘El Clasico’ loss to Barcelona this past Saturday and spoke about the different topics that continually fill the headlines of the Spanish sports pages.
In his interview with Spanish radio station, Cadena COPE’s ‘El Partido de las 12’ programme, Ancelotti spoke about his decision to sell Mesut Ozil, why Gareth Bale is better than Neymar and what he needs to do to get his team back on the right track.
What did you do this weekend after the game?
I worked to prepare for the match against Sevilla.
Did you see the game yesterday at home?
In the office, to have a different view, that from the TV.
Was it a robbery? Did Undiano lose the game for Madrid?
I’m not talking about theft because I like to think that the referee did not have ill intent. The referee makes mistakes like all players. The referee made an error in an important moment of the game, but I do not think it was a robbery. No one in the club is talking about robbery.
Did you play Bale because he cost 100 million?
(Smiles) For me, Bale is a player like any other. I think he was a good signing for Real Madrid. Bale played because, in my opinion, he could play and create problems for Barcelona, that’s all. I didn’t start Benzema because I didn’t want the opponent to have a clear reference point. So Bale started on the left or he could be repositioned with Di Maria.
Was it a wrong decision to put Ramos in midfield?
I don’t think I was wrong. It’s true that Sergio Ramos has not played in that position with me. Before deciding, I spoke to him about it. He was happy, excited to play in this position, I don’t think he played that bad. It’s not true that I put Ramos there to play defense. The defensive midfielder was the same as when Illarramendi played there earlier.
If the game was played again tomorrow, would Ramos play in midfield?
If the week was the same as I saw in training, yes.
Seeing the lineup on Saturday, some people think Ancelotti is afraid.
I spoke to the players in the Cup semi-final that ended 1-3. The strategy of the game was not defensive. The attitude of the first half was not good, but then the attitude was what we showed in the second half.
Are you to blame for the defeat?
Could be. Generally a coach is responsible for team results. When Madrid loses, the coach is the first one responsible. All the problems that have emerged in this period are problems to be solved by the coach. I have a team that is very good, very professional players, they are not causing any problems. With this in mind, I can say yes.
Was Saturday’s approach more Mou or Del Bosque?
(Smiles again) I think Mourinho tried that once with Pepe. I think I’m closer to Del Bosque, which I appreciate for his behavior, he’s always calm and quiet.
Barca accused of Real Madrid of being whiners.
I don’t think that’s true. Speaking of the penalty, no one has said anything bad because the penalty was clear. It is a situation that, from time to time, can determine a match. I had the problem with the same referee, with Undiano in a quarter-final against Manchester United, the same call, the same foul and no whistle. (It was a foul on Ramires by Evra). But this is football, we have to look forward.
Was he missed? Özil at the Camp Nou?
I don’t think. I’m very pleased with the squad I have. We very talented and we have young, experienced players. We’ve had games in which the team has begun to play as I want them to, so I have high hopes and confidence.
Özil? Was he sold because Ancelotti wanted to or the club wanted to?
Because I preferred that Di Maria stayed for a tactical balance. Di Maria is a passer, he’s a more complete player. The pass he did against Juventus is the quality of a passer. I was only with Özil for a month and I cannot comment on his behavior, but he was a professional. When you have two similar players on your team like Ozil and Isco, it is better to keep Di Maria because he has the ability to play most positions on the field. Isco has a lot of quality, he’s pure talent.
Is Florentino angry by your tactical approach last Saturday?
I talked to the president after the game and he was calm. He liked the second half.
Does Bale has a hernia?
I am not a doctor and it ‘s hard to explain. Bale has played many games in recent years and has a protrusion, which is normal for a player. The problem is that he didn’t have a pre-season. The Wales coach told me I was crazy because I put Bale in to play, but it was he who put him in first with the national team. Bale played 30 minutes against Villarreal and then was fatigued. He had nothing wrong, he just needed training. It’s true that he hasn’t done anything extraordinary in the last several games, but he’s a player who’s coming to a new team with a new culture and that takes time to adapt to. The player’s problem is adaptation. I think it’s different playing in Spain than playing in England.
Where does Madrid go from here?
I have great confidence and great enthusiasm because I see that the team is improving fast. We are playing very well and we’ll try to win it all, it’s possible.
I guess for a midfielder who was as elegant as you, it’d be torture for you not to find a perfect midfield. Why so many questions?
Why so many questions: because Alonso was injured, Illarra too. In that position Modric and Khedira occasionally played and so we changed a lot in this position. The reason is that the two midfielders who could play were injured. It is true that Ramos played this game and now Xabi is available, the center-half is covered.
Guardiola has said Ancelotti will ensure that this Madrid will play well in the end. It turns out that the one who has the most faith in Madrid is Guardiola.
(Ancelotti laughs). Guardiola is a fan of Real Madrid (more laughter from Italian). I think I know him very well, and I thank him for that, and I’m sure Madrid will play well. I am the first so admit that I am not happy with the way we’re playing because I have an idea of what Madrid football is with these players. I’m sure we’ll play well, very very fast.
Why has Madrid played so badly? How do you want Madrid to play?
We changed some things, we are trying to play more possession. Use the two pivots, use ground passes, try to get the ball between the lines. All this involves a mechanism that has to be natural. The movement between two players is not there naturally, so we need time. The last few games were not as bad. Against Malaga, we played very well because we recovered the ball quickly, pressed high… things that we didn’t do in the first half against Barca. The strategy was to press high, when Valdés had to put the ball long, every time we win the ball in the air. The attitude of the team was not as good for that reason. In the first half, Barca had more possession, but in the second half it was different.
Playing like this, can you win La Liga or the Champions League?
It’s obvious that we can’t when we are playing like we are now. We will improve quickly. This is the objective. I’m very eager for us to start playing well because I have confidence that we have the players to do it. If I see that they are not comfortable, I have to change that. We will improve.
Why is Isco not playing now?
He started very well, he hasn’t had much rest and is not 100% physically. That’s why he didn’t play [on Saturday], but he will play on Wednesday.
There’s an urban legend about you that [the presidents] make the teams for you? Would you deny that?
That’s an old story that begand when I went to Milan because Berlusconi said that he made the teams. We joked a bit about that. It’s normal. I have my responsibility and all the presidents and fans have their own line-ups. The coach has to explain the reason for the squad decisions. It’s the duty of the coach.
Florentino never told you to put Bale in?
I’ve never spoken to him before a game, always after
And if a president told you to put him in, what would you do?
Berlusconi loved when I put in Ronaldinho, but he wasn’t fit to play and he just sat on the bench. There same happened with Rivaldo. Zidane also started on the bench once, but that was for rest.
The Champions League is with one goalkeeper, La Liga is with Diego Lopez…Who will play the Copa del Rey?
It could be Casillas. I know he’s a great goalkeeper. We began the season with Diego as a matter of fitness and he started well. They are both great keepers. Casillas, for his professionalism, is in the Champions League, because he gives you quality. The Champions League and the Copa del Rey is a decision until the end.
If Real Madrid plays in the finals of the Champions League, between the semi-finals and the final is 25 days. The goalkeeper who will play this final will be without competing for 25 days. Yes, yes, it could be. It’s weird, but I hope Casillas will wait 25 days and play the final.
Did Diego Lopez give you sufficient cause to start him over Casillas?
The quality of the two goalkeepers is roughly the same. Casillas has a lot of experience, but Diego Lopez is a great goalie and has impressive quality. The decision was not easy.
Barcelona is six points ahead, you can’t afford anymore slip-ups…
It’s a pretty substantial difference, but it’s not impossible to recover from. The comeback begins today.
Do you think Barcelona was better last year than this year?
When we played against Barcelona [with PSG], they weren’t at their best. Messi had problems and didn’t play the return match and then clamorously lost to Bayern. They are now better with Neymar.
If you were told in June: Neymar or Bale?
Did they tell you that?
Neymar is playing in the same position as Cristiano Ronaldo and never in my life would I change him for Ronaldo. Florentino never offered that. Florentino wanted Bale.
In the pre-season, Real Madrid played very well with Casemiro and now he’s disappeared.
No, no, he goes to Valdebebas every day. He’s very, very good. We have to think that he’s 20 years old. Even though everything can go well on the pitch, youth can play a problem. When a team has problems in the midfield, I think it puts a lot of pressure and responsibility on a young player. Casemiro will have his time to play in the future, because he can play at Real Madrid but there are curiosities with younger players that it’s best not to give them too much responsibility.
Doesn’t Real Madrid, at times, lack a midfielder?
The system we have in place is to make all the players as comfortable as possible. We have a 4-3-3 system adapted to these players.
That’s the idea you brought to Madrid?
The idea, when I came, was not that, because I played a different way in Juventus with Zidane as an attacking midfielder, in Milan, in PSG…You have to put a system in place that works with the characteristics of the players.
Khedira is superman?
Yes, he’s very fit. He’s playing a lot of games. He may get some rest for the next game.
Do you understand the criticism of Khedira? He plays on every team he’s with.
It may be that all of the coaches are crazy!
Does Real Madrid need a striker?
No. We won’t change.
Can Benzema recover?
Yes, against Barca he did well.
Were you surprised that the fans in the Bernabeu whistled at Benzema and applauded Llorente?
I think that the whistles at the Bernabeu is not a problem with the quality, but the work. The fans all liked the match against Malaga because we worked hard. All the players need to understand this.
Are you afraid to be the coach that let Casillas leave?
Yes, I’d be afraid. I hope he stays because he is the team captain.
Why should he stay?
It could be that Casillas will be the goalkeeper that will lift la Decima
You said you have a pending conversation with him
No, I said that if he wanted to talk, my office is always open. Not here
Do you have your starting eleven in your head?
Yes, I have it on my mind. It’s important. You cannot play one season with just eleven players because you have a lot of games and you have motivate all the players and avoid injury. We are playing badly at the moment. Physically, the team isn’t doing that bad.
You’ve been accused of bringing in too many collaborators…Do you pay them or does Real Madrid?
My son is the trainer and Real Madrid pays him. My daughters boyfriend was hired by Sanitas, not Real Madrid. I read that I have 17 people on the coaching staff, which is not true. There are more. They haven’t counted the equipment managers and others. But in reality, the technical staff is: Zidane, Clement, Vecchi and myself. After those four are the trainers and medical staff, which does not depend on me.
Does the news make you feel bad?
No, I have experience in these types of things.
What’s upset you the most?
Nothing, nothing…not even the news about Bale’s injury.
You’ve managed at Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Madrid. Of those four dressing rooms, where have you seen the most egos?
I’ve had great players and never had any problems with any. Here I don’t see egos, I see professionalism.
What’s the dressing room of Real Madrid like?
One of the best. Very professional.
Do the players demand a lot? Do they have too much power? With meetings for example…
No, no. I prefer when you play a game at 10, it’s easier to focus in the morning, prepare for the match, chat…Once when I was a player, we had a lot of meetings. We went on Wednesday night to get ready for Sunday’s game. I had a great coach, the Swede Nils Liedholm. It was actually good for us to talk. We had no internet, no twitter, no iPad…we could just talk. Now the only time we can get to know the players is at dinner.
Does Zidane speak?
He speaks, he speaks. Not a lot, but he speaks. He’s very competent and that is very important, especially working with the greatest players.
Did you imagine Real Madrid would be like this?
When I spoke to the president for the first time, we talking about the pressure you have, there are fans all over the world…These are normal things. I have no issues. The pressure on me is normal. For me, it’s not a problem to talk about football.
Which is easier: you quitting smoking or winning La Decima?
Real Madrid winning La Decima.
For you, who are the three best players in the world right now?
Cristiano, Messi and Ibrahimovic. I didn’t bring him to Real Madrid because he has a very good contract with PSG.
Do you and Zlatan every get into any fights?
I never had any problems with him, he is a very determined player, wants to win, is very serious and very professional. I like serious players.
Have you ever cried in the dressing room? Yelled at halftime?
I’ve cried many times. On Saturday, I spoke strongly. It’s not easy shouting in a language you don’t know very well.
Would it bother you if they sanctioned Cristiano?
He didn’t say anything. It seems unfair to penalize him.
Have you seen the pictures of Busquets mocking Cristiano with crying gestures?
No, but when you are in a heated match, it’s all in the head…this is nothing.
Do you sleep well?
It depends. If anything, it’s harder to sleep.
Now that Xabi is coming back…will you sleep better?
Yes. We have to be careful with him. By Wednesday, we’ll add him to the group.
Is Cristiano the best player you’ve ever had?
He’s the most decisive.
Are you surprised by him?
The professionalism, he is very focused on small details. He is very, very serious.
What do you think about the Spanish press?
It’s different than in other places. I live quietly in Spain, also in France, in Italy…We have to understand them here.
Mourinho said the same thing after three months here…
Criticism from time to time is a good motivator to play better.
The best player you’ve played with?
Madrid playing like that Milan, an impossible dream?
Football had changed. It’s hard to put a team together in that way because the key to that team was, in addition to the quality, pressure and offside…Now it’s impossible to play well like that, because they changed the rules, it’s difficult to play the offside trap.
Your relationship with Mourinho?
Normal. I had problems with him before when he was at Inter and I was with Milan.
Is it true that Mourinho called you to not put in Casillas?
I’ve haven’t spoken to Mou in over a year.
Who is more difficult: Florentino or Berlusconi?
With Florentino I have no problems. With Berlusconi, we discussed things from time to time. I really like the relationship with him. We lost and we won, he was supportive, gave me confidence, so I have good memories. With Florentino, we talk occasionally on the phone, especially after games.
Is Atletico Madrid as dangerous as Barca?
They are very strong, very compact and have done great things. They are a very dangerous team. We’re behind them and we need to catch up to them.
If you were Del Bosque, would you call up Diego Costa?
Costa is doing very well. But so is Negredo, Torres, Soldado…