Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Saka makes the Euros! : What Ancelotti really said about Odegaard

Well, it turns out the first part of yesterday’s post about Bukayo Saka was off the mark: he did make the England squad for Euro 2020, so first and foremost congratulations to him. Second and last-most, the other part of yesterday’s post is still relevant so if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check it out here.

I did say that there would be benefits to him as a player if he were involved, so that’s the silver-lining to the fact he’s not going to get the rest we thought he might. Actually, maybe that’s not quite true. He still needs the rest, it just means that when he’s planning for the start of next season, Mikel Arteta may have to consider life without Saka for the first couple of weeks to ensure he does get the break he needs after a long, long season.

He skirted around some injury/fatigue issues a bit, and while him missing the first couple of weeks is hardly ideal, it’s better than playing him too soon and for him to break down for a longer period. And look, I know that’s looking at it through the worst-case-scenario lens, but whether a player is 19 or 29, their return from an international tournament is something managers have had to contend with down the years. Even Alexis Sanchez – whose holidays consisted of running up and down volcanoes – needed some rest.

England manager Gareth Southgate said of Saka’s inclusion:

He’s performed exceptionally well for us and performed well in a team that’s had a difficult season. His adaptability, the fact he can play four or five different positions is a real plus for us.

Much as I would have liked Saka to get the rest, I’m happy for him because I do think it will be good for him in the long run to have the experience of being at/playing in a major tournament. It also provides some Arsenal interest in the Euros, and there’s not a lot of that. Saka, Kieran Tierney, Bernd Leno and Granit Xhaka, that’s it – maybe you want to count Martin Odegaard too (don’t count him because Norway aren’t in it, thanks @FStuve!). It used to be a case that our squad was packed with players who played at tournaments like this, now we barely have a handful. How much you read into that is up to you, but I do think there are some parallels to where we are and the quality of some of our players.

Speaking of Odegaard, we now know who Real Madrid’s new boss will be after Carlo Ancelotti unceremoniously dumped Everton to go back to Spain. It’s quite funny really. Florentino Perez was trying to sell us the Super League as the future of football, and then he appoints a manager from their past. So forward thinking. Also, as Perez desperately tries to hang onto the project because his club are financially hamstrung without it, what did the new/old manager say when it all went down a few weeks ago?

Ancelotti:

My immediate reaction was they are joking, this is a joke! It’s a joke because it’s not going to happen. It’s impossible.

The 12 clubs wanting a European Super League made a bad mistake. It is unacceptable to have a competition with no sporting merit.

I wonder has Perez seen those quotes. If not, I’m torn between him picking up the phone to Fabio Capello or John Toshack when he does.

There are some quotes doing the rounds which make it sound like the Italian is completely dismissive of Odegaard, which would be a ‘boost’ to Arsenal in our attempts to sign, but they’re cherry picked excerpts from his book (Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches) which don’t really represent what he said. In it, he’s talking about the recruitment policies at the clubs he’s been at, and how the manager has to be part of that to some extent – which isn’t always the case at Real Madrid.

This is what is doing the rounds:

When Florentino buys a Norwegian footballer, you simply have to accept it. Furthermore, the president decided that he would play three games with the first team as a public relations exercise. He could be the best player in the world, but I don’t care because he was not a player who I asked for. That signing was to do with PR.

This is exactly what he wrote, word for word:

When Real Madrid decided to sign a kid from Norway, sixteen year old Martin Odegaard, I thought ‘I don’t care if he comes in or not, because he’s not going to play for me now’.

He could go on to be the best player in the world after I’m gone, but I’m not interested in the signing because it isn’t of importance to my job. Of course, when he arrived I treated him with the same respect I would give to any young player, but why I would I want to be involved in his recruitment? He is being recruited for the future, for other managers after my time.

Is is still vital to respect the vision of the owners. Perez was well known for his Galacticos approach, where the biggest and most expensive superstars in world football are recruited, so players would arrive and depart who would not necessarily have been my choice, but it was my job to make the team work with whatever assets I was given.

It is a waste of time and energy to fight against something which has already happened – you must manage it. After all, that is why we are called managers. If the president decides that, for a PR exercise, he needs the Norwegian boy to play three games with the first team, I will work out a way of doing that.

Some difference, right? And it doesn’t take much to check out what was actually said before you report it. Also put that in the context of 2015/16 when Ancelotti’s job was to win La Liga ahead of a Barcelona side with Leo Messi and Luis Suarez in their absolute pomp and, of course, win the Champions League too. That’s what is expected at Real Madrid, so if he wasn’t focused on a 16 year old, who can blame him? I suspect he’d be far more interested in a 22 year old Martin Odegaard who has become captain of his country and is now at an age where he could easily be part of the Real Madrid first team on a consistent basis.

Which is to say, it’s not impossible that they might sell him, particularly if they can use that money to fund the kind of signing that Perez is 100% addicted to, but what Carlo Ancelotti wrote in his book isn’t quite the slam dunk it’s being reported as elsewhere.

Right, that’s just about that for now. More tomorrow, when perhaps what happens at the Court of Arbitration for Sport today will have an impact on our transfer business this summer.

Until then.

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