Carlo Ancelotti may just be realising the task at hand at Everton at present, the Merseyside club’s stuttering end to the Premier League season ending any faint hopes of securing European football.
The Italian’s arrival was seen as the landmark moment as the Toffees bid to challenge England’s elite in the coming years, but the initial opening of Ancelotti’s reign has pointed towards a huge rebuild at Goodison Park.
Amongst the most respected coaches on the continent and a three-time Champions League winner, Ancelotti has coached some of football’s finest during a glittering managerial career to date.
We’ve decided to compile a dream XI of the best players the Everton boss has managed throughout his career, a stellar line-up that is some way superior to those currently at his disposal.
The best XI of Carlo Ancelotti’s managerial career:
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper of all-time, Buffon made the early steps in his career as part of an exciting Parma side under the guidance of Ancelotti in the mid-nineties, becoming a first-team regular during the 1996/97 season in which the side finished as runners-up in Serie A.
Buffon quickly established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in world football and earned a world-record move to Juventus in 2001, embarking on an incredible career of both success and longevity in the colours of the Old Lady.
No player has ever made more than Buffon’s 648 Serie A appearances at the time of writing, whilst his nine Scudetto titles is the most of any player in the history of Italian football.
Buffon’s career has been one of almost flawless consistency and he ranks firmly amongst the best to have ever adorned the gloves, a leader at the back and a pivotal figure in the modern history of both the Bianconeri and Serie A.
Cafu may form part of our brilliant backline but the Brazilian was much, much more than just a defender.
Amongst a group of players to redefine the full-back role throughout his career, his marauding rampages forward and ability to influence the game at both ends of the pitch are the benchmark for modern full-backs to try and emulate.
His status as the most capped player in the history of the Brazil national side is a testament to the talents of a player who made an increasingly demanding position seem effortlessly easy, a dynamic presence for club and country who lifted the World Cup, Serie A and Champions League amongst his honours.
Devastatingly effective going forwards and tactically astute when required in defence, Cafu sits high amongst the finest full-backs to have played the game and slots into our side seamlessly at right-back.
Centre-back: Alessandro Nesta
Italian football has a long and proud history of producing elite defenders and Alessandro Nesta is amongst the nation’s finest, a classy centre-back who thrived on snuffing out opposition attacks in a formidable AC Milan side.
Ancelotti secured the signing of Nesta from rivals Lazio for an eye-watering fee of just over €30m in 2002, but he proved worth every penny during a decade of dedicated service with the Rossoneri, winning two league titles and two Champions League trophies after arriving in Milan
Football fans are quick to saviour blood-and-thunder challenges but Nesta made defending an art form and formed part of arguably modern football’s most iconic back four, pickpocketing outwitted strikers and possessing an aura of both authority and everlasting class.
Centre-back: Fabio Cannavaro
Another member of Parma’s iconic team of the nineties and an Azzurri stalwart, the relatively diminutive stature of Fabio Cannavaro failed to prevent the defender reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
The leader and cornerstone of Italy’s World Cup success in 2006, Cannavaro is recognised as one of the best defenders of his generation and he began his rise to superstardom under the guidance of Ancelotti, excelling at the heart of the Parma defence.
Cannavaro’s club career perhaps did not deliver the accolades it deserved but his status as a great is unquestionable, an influential figurehead and one of just three defenders in history to have won the Ballon d’Or.
Left-back: Paolo Maldini
The boyhood Rossonero who followed in his father’s famous footsteps to become an AC Milan legend, the career of Paolo Maldini is one of storied success and enduring legacy in the famed red and black stripes.
Maldini came through the club’s academy ranks before spending more than two decades in the first-team, making more appearances than any other player and winning seven league titles and five European Cups amongst his major honours.
Calm, composed and the first to anticipate any sense of danger, Maldini sits at the top table of Italy’s – and world football’s – greatest ever defenders, a legendary one-club figure with a complete defensive skill-set.
Milan opted to retire Maldini’s number three shirt upon his retirement and he won 25 trophies during his career at the San Siro, the captain and leader of Ancelotti’s Milan side during a golden period of success in the early to mid 2000s.
Midfield: Andrea Pirlo
There’s something ever so stylish about the Italians and in Andrea Pirlo the nation produced a player who simply oozed creative class. Originally a number ten or trequartista, he thrived under Ancelotti in a deeper-lying role, one which saw Pirlo establish himself amongst the elite playmakers of all-time.
The lynchpin of the side for both AC Milan and Italy, Pirlo conducted games at the highest level without ever seeming to break sweat, manipulating the football and opponents in the most mesmerising of styles.
The metronomic talents of Pirlo saw him play a crucial role in two Champions League triumphs for Milan and Ancelotti, sitting in front of the back four like an NFL quarter-back and spraying pinpoint passes wrapped with perfect pace and precision.
Pirlo’s legend is not only built on his technical brilliance but the swagger he exuded in dictating a game, a magical footballer who won it all with unassuming grace and cool.
Midfield: Zinedine Zidane
Ancelotti’s arrival at Juventus saw him inherit a squad containing the very best player in world football, the legendary talents of Zinedine Zidane having flourished since leaving his native France for Turin.
Zidane overcame a difficult start in Italy to establish himself as the most influential player of his era, an undoubted star of Serie A during a time in which football’s finest headed to the division.
The Ballon d’Or winner possessed a style not seen before or since his reign as his generation’s finest, the game seemingly standing still when he took possession of the ball in that unique and artistic manner.
He inspired Juventus to back-to-back league titles and consecutive Champions League finals prior to Ancelotti’s arrival, being named as the World Player of the Year twice during a mesmeric period as the Bianconeri’s talisman.
Even amongst the biggest stars in the game it was Zidane who often shone brightest, raising the levels of those around him and producing when it really matters – memorably scoring winning goals in both World Cup and Champions League finals.
Before an seemingly eternal era which has seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi contest for a position as the world’s finest footballer, there was a brief yet brilliant period in which Kaka held that status as the creative heartbeat of Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan.
Kaka overcame a career-threatening spinal injury to become the most exciting talent in world football, signing for Milan from Sao Paulo and later becoming the club’s inspiration amid a series of triumphs.
Rarely has a player travelled with the ball so quickly in possession, the Brazilian gliding across the turf and combining devastatingly with Milan’s front two of Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi.
The playmaker simply accelerated away from defenders as if they were unable to move, regularly producing sensational solo runs or defence-splitting passes into opposition territory. He scored over a century of goals for Milan but his defining moment came in 2007 – Kaka named as the winner of the Ballon d’Or after inspiring Ancelotti’s side to Champions League success, finishing as the leading scorer in the competition.
Right-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo
An almost certainty for any dream XI in which he is eligible to feature, Cristiano Ronaldo was the inspiration behind Real Madrid’s Champions League success under Ancelotti, the Italian the man to land the fabled La Decima for arguably the world’s biggest club.
Ancelotti later admitted he failed to give Ronaldo much instruction during his time in the Bernabeu hot seat, a tactic which allowed the Portuguese superstar free reign to exert his extraordinary talents.
Ronaldo scored an incredible 112 goals in just two seasons under Ancelotti, including a haul of 61 during the 2014/15 season – the best haul of a career that has seen the star obliterate goalscoring record after record.
A five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo needs little introduction and provides another layer of magic to this formidable XI.
Left-wing: Alessandro del Piero
Stationed on the opposite flank is a man synonymous with both Juventus and Italian football, Del Piero a player whose touch, technique and ability to produce something out of nothing saw him become a hallowed figure in the history of the Old Lady.
The greatest goalscorer in the history of Juventus, the forward brought artistry and ingenuity, emerging as a new generation of second striker following an era in which Serie A was awash with marquee names.
He played his part in a Juventus side which reached three consecutive Champions League finals in the nineties, whilst his career at the Bianconeri saw him finish with an impressive 290 goals and five Scudetto titles to his name.
Forward: Andriy Shevchenko
The version of Andriy Shevchenko who thrived as the focal point of Ancelotti’s Milan was amongst the most feared forwards of the modern era, and earns the Ukrainian his place in our side ahead of illustrious names such as Didier Drogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robert Lewandowski.
Shevchenko burst onto the scene as part of an exciting Dynamo Kyiv side before earning his move to Milan, where he made an instant impact to become the first foreign player to finish as the league’s leading scorer in his debut campaign.
The forward relished his role as Milan’s goalscoring threat and regularly shone on the biggest of stages, scoring the winning penalty as Ancelotti’s side beat Juventus in the first all-Italian Champions League final in 2003.
He won one league title and the Champions League under Ancelotti, whilst he was named as the winner of the Ballon d’Or after once again finishing as Serie A’s leading goalscorer in 2004.
Only Gunnar Nordahl has ever scored more goals in the colours of Milan, Shevchenko a ruthless finisher and the talismanic number seven of Ancelotti’s iconic side.