Ancelotti: “Simeone has nothing to learn from me”
Ahead of Saturday’s derby, Carlo Ancelotti spoke about the current state of affairs with his Real Madrid side, who could cut Barça’s lead to five points with a win against Atleti.
Carlo Ancelotti looked ahead to Saturday’s derby at the Bernabéu in this afternoon’s press briefing in Valdebebas. It will the 18th time that the Italian coach has faced Diego Simeone’s Atlético, with a balance of seven wins, four draws and six defeats in his previous encounters. Ancelotti heads into the game on the back of a breathtaking mid-week victory at Anfield, and with the same squad that travelled to Merseyside.
How is the mood in the squad?
“We’re fine, we’re in a good dynamic. Tomorrow’s game will be special. Atleti will be up for a fight and trying to beat us. And we will be doing the same. It promises to be a great game, like the one in the Copa”.
How can you explain that during the last 25 years, Madrid have won as many Champions Leagues as Ligas?
“Everyone knows how important the Champions League is to this club. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t be battling to win the other competitions we are involved in, including LaLiga. We will plough all of our energies into that. But I don’t know the answer to your question”.
Has the team now reached peak form?
“Apart from the injuries, we’re fine. It’s understandable with the fixtures list we have. Physically, the team has improved: Kroos, Modric, Ceballos... in general, we are much better. Now we don’t have any problems playing with intensity”.
Do you see Nacho still at Real Madrid next season? Could Tchouameni and Kroos start against Atleti?
“Yes, they could. As for Nacho... I don’t know what will happen next season. Maybe both of us will still be here. I would like to see him here in Valdebebas rather than on the television, obviously”.
Vinicius never gets injured, how do you explain that?
“It’s strange that he never gets injured, but he is blessed with incredible genes. It’s all thanks to his parents. And also his professionalism, because he really looks after himself both before and after games and in training. He’s a kid who is very focused on his work”.
Madrid are eight points behind Barcelona... would you have settled for that back in September?
“No, I would rather be eight points ahead, have won 0-5 at Anfield and won the Spanish Super Cup. But we’re doing well, considering we’ve had players out injured”.
Sergio Ramos announced that he is retiring from international football. How do you view age as a factor for footballers?
“If a player can still deliver, age doesn’t matter. Being 17 doesn’t mean you will get to play if you don’t deserve to... and it’s the same for players who are 35, 36 or 37. You need to evaluate the work that players put in every day, that they have something to offer. Sometimes, people complain that the youth players don’t get much of a chance, well I fielded a 17-year-old goalkeeper - Buffon. I did it because he was very good, better than the others. So it’s the same, if at 40, when you could still win the Champions League, like Maldini did at 39, while training once a week. But he played because he was better than the others. If you are better than the rest, you deserve to play”.
Have you spoken to Nacho during the past few days?
“I see him every day. He’s been through moments when he wasn’t happy. But he has never complained, he continued to suffer in silence and show his professionalism. When I have needed him, he’s been ready. And that is what a player needs to do. I am not here, in this job, for the individual, I have told him that. I am here to make sure Real Madrid wins. And I am sorry for... my players, when I can see that they are not happy. Tomorrow, Nacho will play at left-back”.
Do you get bored by all of the refereeing scandals?
“I trust that there isn’t any corruption. Mistake are made in Europe, mistakes are made everywhere, they are human beings”.
Will we ever see Tchouameni and Camavinga playing together?
“Maybe. Tomorrow... I still haven’t thought about the starting XI. Actually, that’s a lie”.
In January, Simeone was full of praise for you. He said: “He has the same personality whether he wins or loses, he is very intelligent... I would like to watch him at work and learn”. Is there anything that you could you learn from El Cholo?
“I’d like to spend time with him, because he loves football as much as I do. I don’t think he needs to learn anything from me, honestly. But spending some time together, chatting... we could learn a few things about how the other one works. I would like to know, for example, how he is preparing for tomorrow’s game. After the game... we could discuss how it went! How we both prepared for it!”
How do you see Vinicius? He keeps getting better and better...
“He works very hard. Practically every day, after the session is over, he will spend 10-15 minutes practicing shooting. That is what he is aiming for, to keep his place in the side and be consistent. Most players with his talent take a few moments out in a game to rest, to take a breather. He doesn;t do that and that is one of his virtues”.
Back to Simeone... What impresses you about him?
“I like how he is as a person, he is very honest when he analyses games. He has enjoyed great success at a club, and let’s not forget that a large part of Atleti’s recent successes were down to him knowing how to instill an identity, a mentality within his team. And that has been one of his great achievements”.
Will you continue at Real Madrid next season?
“Yes, yes. I don’t need to renew my contract, it’s already done. I’m calm. All I need to do is win games (laughs)”.