Ex-Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti spoke to AS, discussing his time at the Bernabéu, his exit from the club, and Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ancelotti, who took over as head coach at German champions Bayern Munich in the summer, also talked about his experiences so far at the Bavarians.
On Bayern: "The club is really well run and has a quality team"
How are things going at Bayern Munich, Carlo?
Well. The club is really well run and has a quality team, the city is beautiful, there's a calm atmosphere... We've done pretty well up to now, though we can improve. We're in time to do so. The decisive period will be February, March and April. We have to be well prepared for then. This is a club where the demands are huge, but it's also a stable one because it's well run. In recent years it's been very competitive.
What legacy has Pep Guardiola left?
In recent years, Bayern have competed really well in Germany and also in Europe, reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League three seasons in a row. I would like to get at last that far, because then getting through the semis comes down to little details.
Is 'only' winning the Bundesliga with Bayern enough? Pep was criticised for it.
The club want to win the Bundesliga because they know that the Champions League is very difficult. What Guardiola did has been recognised 100% at Bayern. That's the case every time he's talked about.
CR7: "Dedicated, professional and scores in almost every game"
You've now got Robert Lewandowski in your team, but previously you had Cristiano Ronaldo. Is he the best player you've ever coached?
One of the most important, without a doubt. He's highly dedicated, really professional, and also scores in almost every game. For a coach, he's crucial. When I left Real Madrid, he gave me his public support, but the greatest help he gave me was by the way he trained day in, day out, by being an example to his team-mates and by scoring lots of goals.
So it'll be no surprise to you that Cristiano has won the Ballon d'Or.
I think it's deserved, because he won the Champions League and the European Championships. He's performed better than the rest this year and the award is a logical one.
It's his fourth Ballon d'Or, with Leo Messi on five. Will we forever remember this battle between the two to be the best?
Of course. For many this is the era of Messi, but it's also the era of Cristiano. The competition between them has improved them. Messi is better because he's had Cristiano, and Cristiano is better because he's had Messi.
He's now 31. How much more of Cristiano will we see?
I don't know when he'll keep going until, but I don't think he's that old. Playing in a more advanced position could have an influence. He's now playing more centrally and with time he'll have to drop deep less often and stay in a more advanced position. I think he'll keep up this high level for three or four years.
On the Ballon d'Or: "The rest will have to wait"
Can he win more Ballons d'Or, then?
Without doubt he can over the next two or three years. Like Messi. The rest will still have to wait, although we can help some of them as a team, such as Lewandowski for example, if we win lots of trophies.
It's almost two years since your departure from Real Madrid; how do you look back on it?
As a significant moment in my career. I consider myself fortunate to have had the chance to coach Madrid, even though the club later decided to make a change. That's part and parcel of the job I'm in. It's tough to stay at the big clubs for a long time, because there are such high demands placed on results.
You say that it's difficult to be at a top club for more than two or three years. Is it even harder at Real Madrid?
Everywhere; not just Madrid. Madrid's history and demands mean that if a coach doesn't win trophies, a change is made. You have to respect that.
Were you undermined by being closer to the players than to the Real president?
I don't think so. That's my way of working, of interacting with the group of people under me. I didn't change that then, and I won't change that now.
"I could see Zidane had the makings of a fine coach"
In your time at Madrid, you had Zinedine Zidane as an assistant. What do you think of the job he's doing as head coach?
Real Madrid are on an impressive run, they're doing really well in LaLiga and they've qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League like the other big clubs. Back then I could already see that he had the makings of a fine coach. All that he was lacking was experience, but that's something you get by coaching day in, day out, working and talking with the players. Zidane has knowledge, charisma, personality... He has it all. Experience isn't the most important thing.
And what about Sergio Ramos?
He continues to score miraculous goals. He does it because he has quality in front of goal; in fact, he could easily have been a forward. I sometimes joked with him, telling him I was going to pick him at centre-forward. That personality and character that he has are really important to teams.
That 93rd-minute goal of his in Lisbon...
Yes, I think that final was my best moment at Real Madrid. We won the most important trophy that we'd set ourselves as an objective. We'd done really well until December, then we had problems with injured players, but fortunately we were able to lift the Champions League.
"I kicked a box and it hit Ibra on the head"
We'd like to look back over your career with a definition of some of the clubs you've coached. Let's start with AC Milan...
A top club; strong and well run.
My first experience abroad. The Premier League is a fascinating league and all the clubs have outstanding organisation.
A challenge. They were a club who wanted to be a top team in Europe but still didn't have that mentality. Little by little we grew and I was involved in helping the team. Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped me a lot, despite the reputation he has. I remember that one day I got really angry with the team - not [just] with him - and I kicked a box in the dressing room that hit him on the head. Despite his temperament, he knew it wasn't on purpose and didn't come after me [laughs].
It was a unique experience. They've created a history that has a global reach. I'd say they're a club that belongs to the whole world, not just Madridistas. It's something any coach ought to try, and I've done it. I'm happy about that.
"The atmosphere is fantastic at Bayern"
And now Bayern?
It's like returning to Milan. A real family atmosphere, with a sense of stability that has been created by people who were players and are now directors. The atmosphere is fantastic.
Would you venture an ideal XI of the players you've coached?
There are so many. Just with the goalkeepers - Buffon, Peruzzi, Cech, Dida, Casillas, Neuer, Diego López... - it'd be impossible to rate them. The same goes for the defenders. And the midfielders. And what can I say about the forwards: Ronaldo, Cristiano, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo...
Could Ronaldo have been what Cristiano and Messi have?
He was a phenomenon. Even when he was injured or weighed 100 kg, he was an absolute phenomenon.
Last question: if Bayern don't win the Champions League...
Hey, we're hoping to win it. And if not, at least get to the final.
But if not, who are you backing?
I can't say I'm backing anyone else. I've already said that there are seven sides this year who can win the trophy: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. At the moment, all seven are among the 16 best.
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