Remembering Hodgson & Ancelotti’s first managerial face-off in Serie A
Roy Hodgson first faced Carlo Ancelotti in a Serie A match way back in 1996. Hodgson’s Inter beat Ancelotti’s Parma 3-1.
When you think of epic managerial rivalries, you probably think of the 17-year battle between Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, or maybe the ongoing tussle between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.
Compared to those, Roy Hodgson versus Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t seem quite as spicy.
But despite meeting just a handful of times over the years, Hodgson and Ancelotti’s “rivalry” goes back a whopping 24 seasons to when the two veterans were coaching in Italy’s Serie A.
For the 1996–97 season, Hodgson was in his second campaign with Inter, while hotshot Ancelotti was just beginning his first top-flight job, with Parma.
The two sides met on October 27, 1996, setting the scene for an intriguing battle of minds now in its fourth decade.
It’s hard to get your head around just how long Roy Hodgson has been in management.
In 1996, the Croydon-born Crystal Palace boss already had 20 years of experience — mostly with Swedish clubs but also with Bristol City, Xamax and even the Swiss national team, which he led to the 1994 World Cup.
His first season with Inter had been a success as well. He took over a club in the relegation zone and guided them to a respectable seventh place by the end of the 1995–96 season.
Some players didn’t like his style, though. Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos infamously fell afoul of the Englishman, who thought the left-back wasn’t disciplined enough to play in defence.
Roberto Carlos later slammed Hodgson, saying that he “didn’t know much about football”.
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Meanwhile, Ancelotti, formerly a midfielder for Parma, Roma and Milan, was just getting started in the dugout.
His first job, in the 1995–96 season, was at Serie B side Reggiana, and he guided them to promotion by finishing fourth.
But he left immediately after that to join Parma for the 1996-97 season.
Both Hodgson and Ancelotti were very into playing 4-4-2, and both sported exactly the same haircuts they do today.
Roberto Carlos had just left, and Ronaldo wouldn’t arrive until the following summer, but Hodgson’s Inter side still contained some huge names.
Gianluca Pagliuca was in goal, with Javier Zanetti and Youri Djorkaeff playing on the wings, and Chilean striker Ivan Zamorano wore No.9 up front. (This was before Ronaldo took the shirt in comedic circumstances).
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Curiously, three members of the Inter XI would end up playing for Middlesbrough: English midfielder Paul Ince, defender Gianluca Festa and striker Marco Branca.
But Ancelotti’s Parma team was even more star-studded.
Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro formed half of the backline, while Gianfranco Zola played on the wing — which ultimately made him decide to leave for Chelsea.
“Probably I made a mistake with [Zola],” Ancelotti told The Guardian in 2009. “I wanted to play 4-4-2 and I put the players in the right positions, but he wanted to stay in the centre like a striker.”
The strikers that day were Enrico Chiesa and a fresh-faced, 21-year-old Hernan Crespo, recently signed from River Plate.
An 18-year-old Gianluigi Buffon was on the bench.
This was only Hernan Crespo’s third match in Europe, and he hadn’t scored in either of the first two.
But he found his groove here at the San Siro.
Ancelotti, looking a bit like a schoolboy in his Parma blazer and Parma tie, had one up over Hodgson inside of a minute, as Crespo bagged his first goal for the club with a fine half-volley.
Just five minutes later, however, Inter got themselves level.
They had two Englishmen to thank for it. Hodgson’s tactics began to take shape, and Paul Ince provided a dipping cross for Ivan Zamorano to head home.
In the 24th minute, another Argentine got himself on the scoresheet as Javier Zanetti used the outside of his foot to convert from just outside the box.
Javier bloody Zanetti. (Remember that Hodgson’s current right-back is Joel Ward.)
Later in the first half, Inter almost put daylight between themselves and Parma when Swiss midfielder Ciriaco Sforza — signed by former Switzerland boss Hodgson, obviously — hit the post.
And in the 55th minute, Hodgson’s Nerazzurri sealed the win when Zamorano leapt above Parma centre-back Luigi Apolloni and put away another fine header, making it 3-1.
Ancelotti was so furious he was sent to the stands. But a kind and magnanimous Hodgson, also dressed in club blazer, consoled the 37-year-old Italian as he left the pitch in his very 90s off-white mac.
Crespo could have pulled one back late on, but his chipped shot went straight at Pagliuca.
What happened next
By the time the two bosses next met, on March 15, 1997, Ancelotti had learned a thing or two.
Parma were second in the league and Inter were third. This time Buffon played in goal for Parma, and Ancelotti’s men came away with a 1-0 win, Enrico Chiesa getting the only goal.
Since then, the careers of the two managers can’t really be compared. Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times, while Hodgson was sacked at the end of the 1996–97 season for losing the UEFA Cup final — a “nearly moment” he would experience a second time with Fulham.
In total, Hodgson and Ancelotti have faced each other on seven occasions, Ancelotti winning five of them.
The Italian’s Chelsea side beat Hodgson’s Fulham on both meetings in the 2009–10 season, but Hodgson got a surprise win with his terrible Liverpool side the following year, despite having Paul Konchesky and Martin Kelly (still a Hodgson player) as full-backs.
Hodgson was sacked in January 2010 but was in back in work soon enough to see his West Brom team lose 3-1 in one of Carlo’s last games for Chelsea.
The two managers have met just once with their current teams.
Ancelotti’s Everton bested Hodgson’s Palace 3-1 in February 2020 — a reverse of that 1996 fixture — but 73-year-old Hodgson will be hoping to rediscover some of the old magic this weekend.
Not that he holds any grudges against his long-term adversary.
“[Ancelotti] is a friend from my Italian days,” Hodgson said this week. “I am looking forward to seeing him, albeit not so much looking forward to the challenge his team are going to present on Saturday.”