By Ben Hayward
Jose Mourinho called himself 'The Only One'. After winning La Liga with Real Madrid in 2011-12, the Portuguese became the first coach to claim league titles in four different countries and his self-proclaimed title was a sign of his pride at that achievement. But things soon went downhill after that at the Santiago Bernabeu and his successor, Carlo Ancelotti, can emulate that record by claiming a championship in Spain. League titles, however, aren't the Italian's speciality.
Ancelotti has won just three leagues in his 18-year coaching career: one at AC Milan, one at Chelsea and one with Paris Saint-Germain. Barring a minor miracle, the 54-year-old won't be adding to that total this term either as Madrid now need both Barcelona and Atletico to majorly slip up over the last two rounds of the Primera Division. It's just not going to happen.
Since 2000, Mourinho has claimed seven titles, while Pep Guardiola now has four and only began coaching in 2008. But Ancelotti, one of the game's most decorated coaches in terms of trophies, with two Champions League crowns and a host of cups to his name, seems to struggle somewhat when it comes to winning leagues.
It was similar in his playing days. Although part of the greatest Milan side ever seen, that team won only one league under Arrigo Sacchi and another with Fabio Capello as coach in his final season. Ancelotti also claimed the title earlier in his career at Roma. Three leagues in 16 years - very similar to his record as coach.
In that time, however, he won four Coppe Italia (all with Roma), two European Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, two Uefa Super Cups and one Supercoppa Italiana (with Milan), while he has won 14 trophies so far as coach. Only three, however, are league titles.
At Madrid, his debut campaign will be viewed as a successful season if he can add the Champions League to last month's Copa del Rey success against Barcelona, but failure to overcome Atletico in the final on May 24 will likely bring criticism and further question marks over why the team's form floundered so spectacularly in La Liga this last week.
The physical and mental exertion expended in beating Bayern Munich so superbly late last month seems to have taken its toll, while injuries to key players haven't helped, but top teams should be able to succeed in spite of such setbacks and Ancelotti's men haven't been able to.
"What happened to us was the same thing that happened to Atletico against Levante," Ancelotti argued. "After a semi-final in which you expend so much energy, it's normal that your level drops like that."
Following their wonderful win at the Allianz Arena, Madrid twice found themselves behind in the 2-2 draw at home to Valencia on Sunday and let a lead slip with five minutes left at Valladolid on Wednesday. The locals' leveller in that game came from a set piece as Humberto Osorio headed home from a corner and Ancelotti was understandably unhappy. It's the kind of goal championship-winning sides seldom concede and Carletto's Milan team often lost concentration from dead-ball situations. And that's down to the coach.
"I told the players that tactics aren't the most important thing," Ancelotti said ahead of the game against Valencia. "The fundamental thing is attitude, the mentality they have." And after the draw at Vallaolid which practically ended their hopes of winning La Liga, the Italian added: "It wasn't the case of a lack of attitude, but we lacked the mental energy for a match of this kind, at the end of the season."
So something to work on for Ancelotti next season. Failure to beat either of his side's title rivals in La Liga has cost Madrid this term and although Copa and Champions League wins will be regarded as a dream debut in Spain for the Italian coach, success in the Primera Division will also be expected in the coming campaigns. The 54-year-old insisted on Friday that he doesn't need summer signings to boost his squad, saying he is happy with what he has. But more mental toughness in 2014-15 will help his side challenge for La Liga as well as the cup competitions. His time in Spain will be judged upon it.