Carlo Ancelotti: Football’s Most Loveable Eyebrow in the Words of His Players

Carlo Ancelotti is number 13 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next three weeks.

‘The Diva Whisperer’, football’s great avuncular uncle, Carletto’s legacy (beyond winning a boatload of trophies) is his man-management skills.

From Milan to Madrid to Munich, it seems almost no-one has a bad word to say about Ancelotti. He is the manager the very best love to play for.

His detractors might say he has been in right place at the right time (with the right squads) but Ancelotti’s great trick is managing the highest of high profile names of the last two decades and nearly always getting the very best out of them. Having the best team on paper, as football history shows, doesn’t always guarantee success. Having Ancelotti as your manager pretty much does.

Carlo Ancelotti

If you scan the career stats pages of the likes of Didier Drogba, Cristiano Ronaldo and many more you will see inevitably some of their finest work came while under the supervision of Italian.

In addition, his tactical innovations include discovering Andrea Pirlo’s best position and teaching Fabio Cannavaro how to zonal mark.

But don’t let me tell you. Here’s the manager in the words of some of his greatest ever players. 

“People say that I was a banner for AC Milan. If that’s true, then he was the wind that made me flutter.”

– Paolo Maldini

“Whenever I talk about Carlo I can’t help but smile, because he’s a fantastic coach and person.”
– ​Andriy Shevchenko

“For me, he was more than a coach. There was something that went beyond the link between a player and coach. I’d call him in times of difficulty. [As a manager] I have to eat more pasta to get to his level.”

– Gennaro Gattuso

Career Honours
​Intertoto Cup (1999)
Coppa Italia (2003) 
Serie A (2004) 
Champions League (2003, 2007, 2014)
Club World Cup (2007, 2014)
​Premier League (2010)
​FA Cup (2010)
​Ligue 1 (2013)
​Copa del Rey (2014)
Bundesliga (2017)

“He taught me to be like an athlete, how to eat and sleep. He has always looked after young players. If they [young players] listen to him, it’s the best thing that can happen to them.”

– Hernan Crespo

“I had the calmness of Carlo Ancelotti who told me the night before [the 2007 Champions League final]: ‘Pippo, in the final you’ll score two goals’.

– Filippo Inzaghi

“He grants very, very, very many liberties because he wants his players to be more creative. He has a clear idea of how you should play and a concept of how you should live. But he also knows that he has 25 individuals to look after.”

– Sami Khedira

​​“He’s the coach that has put a smile back on the faces of the supporters; he brought us the highly desired 10th European Cup and gave the club a magical 2014 winning four titles”.

– Iker Casillas

“He gave me responsibility and I believe he has appreciated me. I had some frank talks with him – and that’s how a special relationship was born. People talk about Mourinho but it is the very first time Chelsea have won the double. Ancelotti entered history.”

– Florent Malouda

“I’ve worked with a lot of coaches in my career, but one man stands out, and that’s Mr Ancelotti. When I joined AC Milan I didn’t play for six months. But I was training under a great coach in Carlo Ancelotti. I can’t stress how important those six months were – they changed my life.” 

– Thiago Silva

Ancelotti was like a father to me. We spent many years together. He helped me play my best football in a different, deeper position. He changed my role on the field. The times with him were indescribable.”

– Andrea Pirlo

“He has it all, the complete package. He has authority, experience, and is a global player. He has a connection to his players to generate a warm atmosphere. No matter the performance of the club, whether it is good or bad, he always finds a way to get a player back on track.”

– Michael Ballack


“He’s like a big bear. He’s such a sensitive person. He spoke with us every day. Not just with me but with all the players. He had fun with us. He’s an unbelievable person. I just wish every player could have an opportunity to work with him because he’s a fantastic guy, a fantastic coach and I miss him a lot.”

– ​Cristiano Ronaldo

“He is the only coach I have had who has such an excellent rapport with his players, even more so than Jose Mourinho. When we won the title, he gathered us in a small room to thank us personally and he had a personal message for all of us.

– Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“What I really loved about Carlo was his man-management. He adapted very quickly and when speaking to me, Frank, Didier, he wanted to pick our brains: ‘is this too much tactics for the players to do? Are we doing too much of this?’ I’ve never had a manager in all my career that actually asks the players and gives them a bit of responsibility.”

– John Terry

“He is the best coach of all time and I am delighted for him that he won ‘La Décima’ with Madrid.”

– Alessandro Del Piero

Teams Managed Years
Reggiana 1995-1996
Parma 1996-1998
Juventus 1999-2001
Milan 2001-2009
Chelsea 2009-2011
Paris Saint-Germain 2011-2013
Real Madrid 2013-2015
Bayern Munich ​2016-2017
Napoli ​2018-

“What I remember the most from Ancelotti is learning zonal marking. I was accustomed to only tracking the man, but with him I learned the right movements and posture. It’s difficult to stop Carletto once he starts giving you notes!”

– Fabio Cannavaro

– “I love Carlo – Carlo is the best for me. He is one of the most incredible managers and people.”

– David Beckham


“I talked about this with Carlo Ancelotti, I asked him the same thing and he said: ‘You will see it yourself, as it will happen to you.’ He told me it was much more beautiful and difficult to win as a coach, and he was right.” 

– Zinedine Zidane

Little speaks more to the very human talents of Ancelotti the manager, in a sport that increasingly sees its personalities as statistics rather than people, than the testimonies of his players. 

Some managers skills lie in building teams, finding diamonds in the rough or taking underdogs further than they have any right to go. However, Ancelotti’s gifts (natural or acquired) for communication, inclusion and a deeply personal touch have made him the ideal manager for dressing rooms crackling with the electricity of superstar talents who need a lightning rod to channel them.

It’s not particularly difficult to find positive quotes about most managers from former players, but the level of warmth, respect and gratitude for Ancelotti by the game’s best across cultures and generations is, well, enough to raise an eyebrow. 

So, what of that famous eyebrow? What’s the story, Carlo?

“I cannot control my eyebrow. Sometimes when I see an interview with me I am really surprised about my eyebrow going up without control. But there is no reason for this, no accident behind it.”

– Carlo Ancelotti

Number 50: Marcelo Bielsa – El Loco’s Journey From Argentina to Footballing Immortality in Europe

Number 49: Vic Buckingham – How an Englishman Discovered Johan Cruyff & Pioneered Total Football

Number 48: Claudio Ranieri: A Ridiculed Tinkerman Who Masterminded One of Football’s Greatest Ever Achievements

Number 47: Bill Nicholson: Mr Tottenham Hotspur, the First Double Winning Manager of the 20th Century

Number 46: Sven-Goran Eriksson: The Scudetto Winning Shagger Who Never Solved the Lampard-Gerrard Conundrum

Number 45: Sir Alf Ramsey: The Man Behind the ‘Wingless Wonders’ & England’s Sole World Cup Triumph

Number 44: Antonio Conte: An Astute Tactician Whose Perfectionist Philosophy Reinvented the 3-5-2 Wheel

Number 43: Kenny Dalglish: The Beacon of Light in Liverpool’s Darkest Hour

Number 42: Massimiliano Allegri: The Masterful Tactician Who Won Serie A Five Times in a Row

Number 41: Sir Bobby Robson: A Footballing Colossus Whose Fighting Spirit Ensured an Immortal Legacy

Number 40: Luis Aragones: Spain’s Most Important Manager, the Atleti Rock and the Modern Father of Tiki-Taka

Number 39: Herbert Chapman: One of Football’s Great Innovators & Mastermind Behind the ‘W-M’ Formation

Number 38: Carlos Alberto Parreira: The International Specialist Who Never Shied Away From a Challenge

Number 37: Franz Beckenbauer: The German Giant Whose Playing Career Overshadowed His Managerial Genius

Number 36: Viktor Maslov: Soviet Pioneer of the 4-4-2 & the Innovator of Pressing

Number 35: Rafa Benitez: The Conquerer of La Liga Who Masterminded That Comeback in Istanbul

Number 34: Zinedine Zidane: Cataloguing the Frenchman’s Transition From Midfield Magician to Managerial Maestro

Number 33: Luiz Felipe Scolari: How the Enigmatic ‘Big Phil’ Succeeded as Much as He Failed on the Big Stage

Number 32: Jupp Heynckes: The Legendary Manager Who Masterminded ‘the Greatest Bayern Side Ever’

Number 31: Vicente del Bosque: The Unluckiest Manager in the World Who Led Spain to Immortality

Number 30: Arsene Wenger: A Pioneering Who Became Invincible at Arsenal

Number 29: Udo Lattek: The Bundesliga Icon Who Shattered European Records

Number 28: Jock Stein: The Man Who Guided Celtic to Historic Heights & Mentored Sir Alex Ferguson

Number 27: Vittorio Pozzo: Metodo, Mussolini, Meazza & the Difficult Memory of a Two-Time World Cup Winner

Number 26: Jurgen Klopp: The Early Years at Mainz 05 Where He Sealed His ‘Greatest Achievement’

Number 25:Mario Zagallo: Habitual World Cup Winner & Sculptor of Brazil’s Joga Bonito Era

Number 24: Bela Guttmann: The Dance Instructor Who Changed Football Forever (and Managed…Just Everyone)

Number 23: Valeriy Lobanovskyi: The Scientist Who Dominated Football in the Soviet Union

Number 22: Louis van Gaal: The Stubborn Master Who Won 15 Major Trophies at 4 of the World’s Greatest Clubs

Number 21: Otto Rehhagel: The ‘King’ Who Turned 150/1 Greek Outsiders into Champions of Europe

Number 20: Tele Santana: The ‘Joga Bonito’ Icon Who Helped Brazil Rediscover Their Love of Football

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Number 17: Miguel Muñoz: The Man Who Told Alfredo Di Stefano to F*ck Off & Led the Ye-Ye’s to European Glory

Number 16: Fabio Capello: Italy’s Cosmopolitan Disciplinarian Who Built on a Generation-Defining AC Milan

Number 15: Brian Clough: He Wasn’t the Best Manager in the Business, But He Was in the Top 1 

Number 14: Nereo Rocco: ‘El Paron’, the Pioneer of Catenaccio & Forgotten Great of Italian Football


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