As Louis Van Gaal’s replacement of David Moyes at Manchester United has graphically shown, the really big management jobs are now the preserve of an elite few riding an endless merry-go-round. Ancelotti and Mourinho have effectively done a job swap.
In between leaving Stamford Bridge and replacing Mourinho in Madrid, Ancelotti won newly-wealthy Paris St Germain’s first title since 1994 and got them to the Champions League’s last eight.
Given this pattern across the game, he would probably have left London at some stage even if he had survived 2011’s trophyless campaign.
There isn’t even any cast-iron guarantee he will survive at the Bernabeu if Atletico win the first ”derby” European Cup final tomorrow, having already lost La Liga to their cross-town rivals.
Doubtless Ancelotti would accept any such madness with his usual sanguine wisdom. Cristiano Ronaldo might not.
The world’s best player is so delighted that calm has replaced the dressing-room warfare of the Mourinho era in Madrid that he said after the 4-0 semi-final thrashing of Bayern Munich: ”Ancelotti deserves all the credit. He has changed everything.”
The management of superstars is particularly complex these days. The extraordinary complaints of Yaya Toure about Manchester City’s failure to allow him to bring in toys on Fridays – sorry, their lack of appreciation of his birthday – have torn apart the idea that Manuel Pellegrini had soothed all the troubles there.
Yet Ancelotti seems to manage it effortlessly. The San Siro icon Paolo Maldini – midfielder Carlo’s team-mate in two European Cup-winning Milan sides – summed it up: ”Of all my coaches, he managed the dressing room with the most serenity.”
This attitude has surely been critical in helping Gareth Bale much such a spectacular impact in his first season in Madrid. With an £85million price tag attached to the move, Bale could have struggled to settle.
One of the many attractions in Lisbon is the contrast between Ancelotti and Diego Simeone, the brooding Atletico coach in his trademark black suit, shirt and tie.
The Spanish call Ancelotti ”The Pacifier”; they call Simeone ”The Gangster”.
The Stadium of Light stages the second successive final without an English club. In this era when the Euro-game is the household game, it is no less compelling an occasion.