Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti (left) chats with Cristiano Ronaldo during training ahead of the 2014 Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, Estadio da Luiz, Lisbon, 23 May 2014

A brilliant XI of players left out of Ancelotti’s best XI he’s coached

The list of players coached by Carlo Ancelotti reads like a Football Manager addict’s wet dream, and that’s only emphasised by looking at the players that missed out on the Italian’s best XI.

When asked by Marca to compile the best XI of players he has managed, Ancelotti restricted himself to those he coached prior to joining Real Madrid in 2013, resulting in a diamond 4-4-2: Gianluigi Buffon; Cafu, Thiago Silva, John Terry, Paolo Maldini; Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka; Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andriy Shevchenko.

We’ve widened the net to include every team he has managed to come up with the best XI of players to miss the cut, also arranged in a diamond 4-4-2.

GK: Petr Cech

Iker Casillas was still in something of a post-Mourinho malaise when Ancelotti took over at Real Madrid, and Manuel Neuer struggled with injuries under the manager at Bayern.

That leaves the understated excellence of Cech as our choice between the sticks, having won the Premier League’s Golden Glove award in 2009-10. Thibaut Courtois is strong competition though, particularly after his heroics in the 2022 Champions League final.

RB: Philipp Lahm

Choosing the back four gave us a bit of a headache, starting at right-back. Lilian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta were both given plenty of consideration, but we decided on Lahm; ensuring Bayern had a representative seemed as good a reason as any.

One of two World Cup-winning captains in the defence, Lahm could have also been selected at left-back or in midfield.

“Philipp Lahm is one of the most professional players I have ever met – very serious, very professional,” Ancelotti said in 2017. “He is an example for others, he never complains. It is delightful for managers to have players like this, we would like 20 Philipp Lahms and there would be no problem at all.”

CB: Alessandro Nesta

Again, the options at centre-back were pretty ridiculous, with Alessandro Costacurta, Jaap Stam, Thuram, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos all considered, but the class of Nesta won out in the end.

“For me, he is a father,” the former Italy international once told the BBC when describing Ancelotti.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro

A throwback to Ancelotti’s days in charge of Parma, how could we exclude another World Cup-winning captain?

“When he said goodbye to us in order to join Milan, all the players were crying,” Cannavaro told La Gazzetta dello Sport in 2018.

LB: Ashley Cole

Zambrotta and Lahm were options on either side of the defence, while David Alaba can feel slightly aggrieved.

Cole was a surprise omission in Jose Mourinho’s XI but openly admitted he “didn’t play as well as I could” at Chelsea under the Portuguese boss.

The former England left-back had rediscovered his verve by the time Ancelotti arrived at Stamford Bridge, however, and seems an obvious pick.

DM: Xabi Alonso

Having played under Ancelotti at both Real Madrid and Bayern, can you think of a more perfect Andrea Pirlo alternative?

CM: Clarence Seedorf

Despite an embarrassment of riches to choose from, it’s impossible to look beyond that classic midfield at AC Milan and Seedorf.

The only player to win the Champions League with three different clubs, Ancelotti also tried to re-sign the Dutchman while with Chelsea.

READ: Clarence Seedorf in Brazil: A perfect swansong in his football utopia

CM: Luka Modric

We were really tempted to include Gennaro Gattuso to bring some much-need shithousery to this team, if not outright psychopathy, but there’s no looking past Luka Modric, is there?

Incredible in Real Madrid’s La Decima victory under Ancelotti in 2014 and somehow still just as good in 2022.

Surely if Don Carlo put together his all-time greatest XI again, the Croatian would be among the first names on his team sheet.

AM: Rui Costa

Overshadowed somewhat by Kaka as time wore on, Rui Costa was the original ethereal playmaker in Milan’s midfield of the 2000s.

READ: Manuel Rui Costa, ‘The Maestro’ who made Fiorentina, Milan & Portugal tick

ST: Cristiano Ronaldo

Don’t really need to argue the case for this one, do we?

ST: Karim Benzema

The last time we took a stab at putting this one together, we opted for Didier Drogba to partner Ronaldo up top. It often feels like that Chelsea team from Ancelotti’s first season doesn’t get the credit it deserves having been somewhat overshadowed by the attacking exploits of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Drogba, who scored 37 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions as Ancelotti’s Blues completed a Premier League and FA Cup double in 2009-10.

But sorry Didier, unstoppable as you were at your peak, prime Benzema has since surpassed you. He produced his career-best campaign in 2021-22 under Ancelotti and will surely soon be awarded the Ballon d’Or for his role in Los Blancos’ Champions League and La Liga double.

READ: 13 crazy stats that show why Karim Benzema deserves the Ballon d’Or

Notable absentees (f*ck he’s managed a lot of good players): Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer, Alessandro Costacurta, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Jaap Stam, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, David Alaba, Edgar Davids, Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti, Michael Essien, Thiago Motta, Toni Kroos, David Beckham, Angel Di Maria, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Rivaldo, Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, David Trezeguet, Vinicius Junior, Hernan Crespo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Gareth Bale, Robert Lewandowski, Dries Mertens, Richarlison, Didier Drogba.

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