With Carlo Ancelotti back at the helm at Real Madrid, The Hard Tackle takes a look at five players he has worked with in the past, that he could sign this summer.
The past couple of weeks at Real Madrid have been quite eventful, to say the least.
From the heartbreak of losing the La Liga title to neighbours Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season, to seeing Zinedine Zidane quit as manager for a second time in the space of three years, even as the spectre of getting banned from the UEFA Champions League due to their continued push for the European Super League looms large, things looked gloomy for the Madridistas.
Amidst the dark clouds, though, they have been treated to a ray of hope and sunshine as Carlo Ancelotti, the man who brought home the long-coveted La Decima, is back at the helm of things. Indeed, after being linked with the likes of Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte, Florentino Perez & co. have gone for a familiar flavour in Don Carlo, swooping him away from his latest project at Everton.
One of the most successful managers of the modern era, Ancelotti spent two years at Real Madrid between 2013 and 2015, during which he led the club to their tenth European title, while also winning the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup as well as the FIFA Club World Cup.
Since then, the 61-year-old has had stints with Bayern Munich, Napoli and Everton, and while they haven’t all been successful, Ancelotti’s aura remains intact as he prepares for his second stint in the Real Madrid hotseat.
With the Italian tactician taking over the reins, there is the chance that he might look to bring in players that he has worked with in the past, with Los Blancos in need of a overhaul across multiple areas on the pitch. To that end, The Hard Tackle now takes a look at five such footballers who have played under Don Carlo, that could follow him to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Real Madrid are staring at the possibility of losing their captain and leader Sergio Ramos on a free transfer this summer, while fellow defensive mainstay Raphael Varane could also be on his way out. So, even though David Alaba has signed on a Bosman already, there could be room for another central defender to arrive at the club, making Kalidou Koulibaly a viable option.
One of the most solid and reliable defenders in Serie A and Europe over the years, the Senegalese man mountain could be sold by Napoli in the summer as they battle financial issues due to the pandemic. Koulibaly is in his prime at 29 and has plenty of experience at the highest level, having been a key member of the Napoli side under Maurizio Sarri and Ancelotti that pushed Juventus to the brink in the Serie A title race.
Someone who has been on Real Madrid’s radar in the past, Koulibaly would provide the Merengues with leadership at the back while his all-round abilities on the football field need no introduction. The 29-year-old played in 67 of the 73 games that Ancelotti managed at Napoli, indicating the amount of trust the Italian puts in the defender. A deal that could very well happen this summer.
Lucas Digne (Everton)
While Ferland Mendy may have locked in the left-back slot at Real Madrid, the Spanish capital club are need of quality cover as Marcelo has seen his form decline sharply in the past couple of years and is largely expected to be on his way out, with his contract expiring in a year. Academy prospect Miguel Gutierrez showed promise towards the end of the season but would be better served going out on loan and gaining more experience.
A move for Lucas Digne of Everton could, thus, make a lot of sense for Real Madrid. Since signing for Everton in 2018 after a forgettable stint with Barcelona, the Frenchman has grown leaps and bounds, ensuring that Leighton Baines has not been missed at Goodison Park. Under Ancelotti, the 27-year-old has taken his game up a notch, racking up 11 assists in 54 appearances during the Italian’s tenure at the club.
Entering his best years, Digne has displayed great attacking characteristics with his marauding runs and ability to pick out crosses while he has developed his defensive game as well. Bringing him into the side would provide Real Madrid with a quality alternative for Mendy, during whose absence the team suffered towards the back end of the 2020/21 season.
Fabian Ruiz (Napoli)
A player that Ancelotti signed at Napoli in 2018, Ruiz was a constant fixture for the Partenopei during the 61-year-old’s stint at the club and has continued to be so even after his departure, in the process establishing himself as one of the topmost central midfielders on display in Serie A. Ruiz played 59 times for Napoli under Don Carlo, bagging eight goals and five assists.
The 28-year-old is adept at playing as part of a double pivot or as one of the No.8s in a three-man midfield unit, with his ability on the ball and vision to carve out openings making him an asset for any team that he would represent. And, heading into the summer, that is something that Real Madrid could most certainly use, given as Luka Modric is well and truly in the final phase of his career.
In addition, Toni Kroos is also in his thirties and needs to be protected from a burnout, thus making someone like Ruiz, who has been linked with Real Madrid in the past, along with the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, a target worth pursuing. The Spanish international could oversee a seamless transition into an era post- Luka Modric at the Bernabeu.
Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich)
Moving from a player who was a near ever-present in Ancelotti’s Napoli to someone who didn’t play all that much under him at Bayern Munich, Kingsley Coman would be an option worth looking at Real Madrid. The Frenchman featured just 36 times during Ancelotti’s reign at the Allianz Arena, although that had more to do with the presence of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Since ‘Robbery’ have moved on, Coman has grown into stature at Bayern, though, and is one of the first names on the team sheet while being pursued by clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. The 24-year-old has played a key role in Die Roten’s continued, unparalleled success in Germany while he also downed Ancelotti’s former side, PSG, in the UEFA Champions League final in 2019/20.
Real Madrid have lacked suitable support in attack for Karim Benzema, given as none of Eden Hazard, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes or Marco Asensio have been nearly consistent enough. By bringing in Coman, that problem could be addressed, with the 24-year-old coming on the back of an excellent campaign that saw him produce a tally of eight goals and fifteen assists from 39 games for Bayern Munich.
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
The likes of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were considered but the former has been far too inconsistent while Real Madrid are likely to sign either of Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland this summer, meaning the latter would potentially be a redundant addition. Which is why, we have gone with Lorenzo Insigne as the final name on this list.
Another pillar of the Napoli team that Ancelotti built, the Partenopei skipper was directly involved in 29 goals in the 58 matches that he played under the tutelage of the Italian coach. And he has continued in a similar vein of form even after Ancelotti’s exit from Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in 2019 and is coming on the back of one of his best seasons, having produced a tally of 19 goals and 11 assists in 48 games in 2020/21.
The diminutive forward, on form, would be an upgrade on the wide players that Real Madrid currently have at their disposal, including Eden Hazard, who has been bogged down by endless fitness issues in the Spanish capital. Insigne’s contract with Napoli is up f