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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: The Beautiful Games of an Ordinary Genius by Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti Written by Carlo Ancelotti and Alessandro Alciato, Foreword by Paolo Maldini
Image credit:
 Rizzoli International Publications.

The forward by Milan legend, Paolo Maldini, set the tone for the entire book:

"Carletto never goes overboard, with the possible exception of when he's eating, because once he sits down and grabs a knife and fork, you'd need an exorcist to stop him."

"People have described him in a thousand different ways. For me, quite simply, he is a friend." --- Paolo Maldini

Carlo Ancelotti's "The Beautiful Games of an Ordinary Genius," co-authored by sports journalist, Alessandro Alciato, and published by Rizzoli International Publications in 2010 with a list price of US $25.00, is an extremely candid, entertaining, humorous and informative look into one of the most successful managers in world football. 

Engaging with an Organized and Detailed Presentation

He began the book with the events leading to his appointment as the Chelsea manager, and ended with a tribute to a former teammate, Stefano Borgonovo. 

The journey between beginning and end is spectacular. Ancelotti is a smart and observant man with a self-effacing sense of humor. He is also an excellent storyteller who keeps the reader engaged with provocative prose and minute details. 

This book contains conversations with notable soccer executives such as Roman Abramovich, Adriano Galliani and Luciano Moggi. Ancelotti details his numerous clandestine meetings from Parma to Istanbul. But what I liked best was his everyday descriptions of life as a player at Parma, Roma, and Milan, and later, his time as a manager at Reggiana, Parma, Juventus, Milan and Chelsea. Ancelotti traveled a long way from his youth on a pig farm, but one senses that he never forgot his roots.

"One of the reasons that I fit into the locker room was thanks to the fundamental role played by Ray Wilkins, my number two and friend, because it's one thing to translate words, plenty of people can do that, but translating feelings is the gift of only a select few."

Selection of Memorable Quotes

On Silvio Berlusconi:

"Hello, this is Silvio. I want to win everything there is to win."

On Stefano Borgonovo:

"When they say that the eyes are the window to the soul, that's a simplification. For him, they are the keys to escape prison. Two glittering beams of hope."

On Fabio Capello:

"You won't like everyone you meet in life. Fabio Capello and I had, and have, different personalities. The problem is that it's very difficult to separate a professional relationship from a human relationship."

On Alessandro Del Piero:

"From a professional point of view, he has always been serious and determined. In human terms, he is a rare and priceless individual. In terms of technique, he's a thoroughbred."

On Sir Alex Ferguson: 

"A few minutes after the final whistle we went to Sir Alex's room to drink the usual glass of wine. We walked in, and silence reigned. He sat there staring at a television screen; the set was tuned to a horse race, his greatest love."

On Adriano Galliani:

"He has red-and-black blood flowing through his veins. He's a manager with a desk; he's a soccer fan with a stadium. Two souls compressed into a single body. He is Berlusconi's right-hand and left-hand man."

On Pippo Inzaghi:

"Pippo has always been something of an animal. He's an incomplete player. Still, inside the penalty area, no player on earth can compete with him."

On Ricardo Kaka':

"Kaka' looked nothing like a Brazilian footballer; if anything, he looked like a Jehovah's Witness in the industrial belt outside Milan. I started to ask around, and everyone told me the same thing. 'Sure, he has potential. He's an attacking midfielder, but he's not super fast. If he plays in an Italian championship game, he could run into trouble when things get tight.' I'm going to keep the names of my sources confidential, to keep from making them look like donkeys."

On Luciano Moggi:

"Everyone respected Moggi, and so, in effect, there could be a sense of intimidation at times. His strength, and later his downfall, was his public relations: he never said no."

On Arrigo Sacchi

"I met someone who struck me as insane first: Arrigo Sacchi. Before long, though, it dawned on me that Sacchi was a genius, not a madman... He taught me how to be a coach."

On Zinedine Zidane:

"Zidane was the greatest soccer player I ever coached, the sole inhabitant of a very different planet."

"The first thing that struck me was how shy he seemed to be. The second thing was what an expert he was on soccer: he knew the game inside out."

"Chelsea is his home, it always has been, ever since the youth squad. One word from him and the locker room holds its breath."

Unique Pictures Section

One thing that stood out was the esoteric nature of the pictures section. Ancelotti included many pictures from his own playing career, but also included a few surprises. For example, actual images of his contracts with Parma and Juventus. The sample for Juventus included a hand-written draft of the eventual contract prepared on the club's stationery. 

He also included images of game notes that were handed out to his players. My favorite picture had nothing to do with Ancelotti's playing or coaching career. It was a compelling image of David Beckham with Stefano Borgonovo. Ancelotti is contributing all of his royalties from this book to Fondazione Stefano Borgonovo to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig's Disease (ACL). 

Whether or not you are a fan of Carlo Ancelotti, this compelling book will be a learning experience. It is a rare inside look into the world of professional soccer management at its highest levels.

This review was originally published at Italian Soccer Serie A.

Please note:

I received a complimentary review copy by an representative of the publisher, Rizzoli International Publications. I was not compensated by the publisher, co-authors or any other party who would benefit from a positive review.

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries and The Soccer Translator

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