Ancelotti's Fine Start Raises Eyebrows Over Bale Quest

by
Reuters
An impressive pre-season for new Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has lifted morale at the Bernabeu in the post-Jose Mourinho era and left many fans scratching their heads.

Paris St Germain's coach Ancelotti attends his team's French Ligue 1 soccer match against Troyes at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris

An impressive pre-season for new Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has lifted morale at the Bernabeu in the post-Jose Mourinho era and left many fans scratching their heads.

If everything seems to be going so well, why should the club need to break the world transfer record to sign Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale, another attacking midfielder?

The nine-times European champions have been chasing Welsh winger Bale since the end of last season, with figures in excess of 100 million euros ($132.36 million) being bandied around in the media.

"It isn't clear this team needs a new recruit like this," Madrid-based sports newspaper AS said in an editorial this week, as Sunday's La Liga season-opener at home to Real Betis approached.

"One thing Bale has, apart from his quality, is that he fits in well with (president) Florentino (Perez)'s 'economic-sporting' project.

"In this sense, the more expensive the better because it will make more noise, more of an uproar, more 'marketing'. It is more an economic choice than a sporting choice.

"The objective shouldn't be to be the richest club in the world, but to be one that wins titles."

The world's richest sports club by revenue, according to the annual survey by business services group Deloitte, have hardly been quiet in the transfer market so far as they seek to improve on a trophy-less end to the 2012-2013 season.

UNDER-21 INTERNATIONALS

They have already signed three midfielders, young Brazilian Casemiro and Spanish Under-21 internationals Asier Illarramendi and Isco for around 75 million euros ($99.27 million).

Right back Dani Carvajal, another Spanish Under-21 international, was also brought back from Bayer Leverkusen.

Passing out in the opposite direction were Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain, Spain defender Raul Albiol and forward Jose Callejon, and Portugal left back Fabio Coentrao may yet leave before the end of the transfer window.

After the bunker-type atmosphere of Mourinho's final season at the Bernabeu, the arrival of the genial Ancelotti has been like a breath of fresh air.

The hugely-experienced Italian promised to play "spectacular football" at his presentation in June and has set about changing Real's style from dominating possession with a more patient approach.

In the short term, that has been widely appreciated by fans. Winning a 10th European Cup and bettering arch-rivals Barcelona remain, of course, the ultimate tests for Ancelotti.

The players appeared to have responded well to the new coach and have won six and drawn one of their seven warm-up games, including victories over Paris St Germain, Inter Milan and a Chelsea side now managed by former boss Mourinho.

Leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who has netted an incredible 201 goals in 199 official appearances since he left Manchester United in 2009 for a record 80 million pounds ($123.69 million), has continued where he left off last season.

He has led the pre-season scoring with six strikes playing part of the time in a new central role just behind the striker, Ancelotti saying it is up to the Portugal forward to choose his favoured position.

CONTRACT TALKS

The only doubt surrounding the former World Player of the Year is his on-going contract renewal talks, though Perez insists an agreement will be reached to tie up their prize asset beyond 2015 by the end of next month.

Isco, Casemiro and Luka Modric have all caught the eye in pre-season as well, and with Xabi Alonso and Illarramendi and Raphael Varane still recovering from injury, competition for places is assured.

Real's exciting first-choice attacking four, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, looks likely to be Karim Benzema, Ronaldo, Isco and Mesut Ozil.

Youth team players Alvaro Morata and Jese, both forwards, have also impressed and will be hugely popular additions for Madrid fans if they are still in the first team squad at the end of August.

"We are ready to start the season," Ancelotti said after a 3-0 thrashing of Inter Milan in the United States at the weekend. "I have been very pleased from the start with the squad I have. Why do we have to talk about Bale today, when Morata and Jese have played so well?

"I am very pleased for them, they are very young but they have incredible ability.

"The balance of the pre-season is positive. We have worked well, with a good spirit in the team. We are ready to start."

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