No Plan B for Madrid: Ancelotti tops list of Mourinho successors

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

One of the worst-kept secrets in football was confirmed Monday: Jose Mourinho will depart Real Madrid at the end of the season for pastures new.

Three seasons, three trophies. The Copa del Rey in his first, La Liga in his second and the lesser Supercopa this season. It was all going so well, and almost to plan, before a ball was kicked in the 2013-14 season, but these last 10 months have been ones to forget for the Special One, who lost his magic touch.

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Mourinho's departure was being discussed even before the turn of the year and it had gathered pace since. Infighting from top to bottom was the foundation of his downfall, and once certain relationships had been broken, there was no way back.

For as long as rumour and speculation have linked the Portuguese with a move away from the Bernabeu this summer, his former club, Chelsea, has been touted as his destination. Two and two most certainly make four in this scenario. Expect a rekindling of the flame between Mourinho and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to be signed, sealed and delivered sooner rather than later.

So what next for Los Blancos? A new era is on the horizon, and president Florentino Perez knows his next choice as manager will be absolutely crucial if he wants to see his club regain top power in Spain and clinch that long-awaited 10th European Cup.

Secrecy has not been on the agenda, it seems, in this whole act. Plenty knew Mourinho would most likely be leaving come the end of the season, and plenty knew his most likely next destination will be London and the Premier League. Everyone knows Madrid wants Italian Carlo Ancelotti to replace Mourinho.

Paris Saint-Germain, Ancelotti's current club, have already turned down one approach from Madrid for the former Chelsea and AC Milan manager's services, saying he is under contract with the French club for another year.

Ancelotti, who has twice won the European Cup that Madrid so desperately desires, held talks with PSG, who he helped guide to the title this season, and asked to leave for the Spanish capital. But that request was declined.

Of course it's going to be declined -- for now. Paris will not want to part company with a man who brought them the title and who took them far, relatively, in the Champions League this season before they bowed out against Barcelona. Ancelotti is one of the most respected managers in the game, and they will not let him go without a fight.

Ancelotti wants to leave, however. Just as when a player wants to leave, they usually -- usually -- get their way. An unhappy relationship between the top powers at a football club can lead to all kinds of problems: just look at Mourinho at Madrid.

Madrid will bide their time. Ancelotti is the club's No. 1 choice and they will do whatever they can to secure his services in time for next season. In this instance, Madrid is not in a position where money will make all the difference -- the spending power Paris now has can be matched by few teams in world football.

It could make some difference, though. PSG will know full well that Madrid forked out a large sum to get their man when Mourinho left Inter Milan to join Los Blancos three years ago. They did the same, albeit on a lesser scale, with Manuel Pellegrini before that. At most clubs, the big bucks are saved for the players. At Madrid, they're also used for grabbing the best managers.

The Parisians will therefore be in no rush to accept any offers for Ancelotti, even if it does make for a sour taste to be left in the mouth of the club and the manager after what has been a pretty good spell of success.

It would make sense for the French champions to look for a replacement for the Italian as soon as possible, if they are resigned to losing him, to help prepare for the new season. Behind the scenes, they may well be doing that, while they milk Madrid for all they can get for Ancelotti as the desperation to confirm Mourinho's successor grows with each passing day.

So strong is Madrid's desire to get Ancelotti that few other managers have even been linked with the job, despite the usual frantic digging by the Madrid-based sports papers.

Jurgen Klopp, the Borussia Dortmund coach, is one name that must undoubtedly be on the list of Mourinho's possible successors, but the German extended his contract with the Bundesliga club this season and is expected to see that out, for the time being at least. Madrid know all about Klopp's capabilities after he built a Dortmund side that got the better of Los Blancos throughout the season -- in the group and knockout stages of the Champions League.

Joachim Low, the German national coach, was also touted earlier this season, but those rumours have been put to bed, with Madrid aiming for the top with Ancelotti. Plan B doesn't even seem worth considering.

Expect plenty of words to be exchanged between Paris and Madrid, both in private and through the media, good and bad, in the coming weeks. Expect Ancelotti to be in the Bernabeu dugout next season, though. Madrid are a club who usually -- usually -- get what they want. If the other party wants to tango, too, it's rare when it doesn't happen.

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