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Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review | Il Mio Albero di Natale by Carlo Ancelotti with Giorgio Ciaschini

Today, my new book came out: MY CHRISTMAS TREE.
"Football has always been, and is, my life, my work. It is an activity made up of many stories that were experienced with and through numerous travel companions. A path of study, of research and experiences on the pitch. With this book, I want to transmit the emotions, small details, tactical solutions and memories of these 18 years of my career. You can find it in all of the Rizzoli bookstores or online by clicking on the following link."
--- Carlo Ancelotti 
Italian source: Il Mio Albero di Natale; Carlo Ancelotti's Official Website; 6 November 2013. 
David Beckham
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.
Back cover text:
"To drive powerful and sophisticated cars, because these are the types of players he has coached, they need great drivers. Carlo Ancelotti is one of these."
--- David Beckham

"I'll write about everything there is, but I don't want my book to be a new manual about styles of play. Also because, I repeat, I think playing football is not only about training and sending out a team you have prepared to the utmost. I'll surely discuss tactics, schemes and playing systems that are utilized by me. But with the pleasure to also share the less evident and equally important parts which are encapsulated in a few salient moments of my past and present work."

--- Carlo Ancelotti, page 12,"Il Mio Albero di Natale: Dalla Reggiana al Real, storie, schemi e appunti segreti di un maestro di calcio e umanità (Di tutto di più)" Carlo Ancelotti a cura di Giorgio Ciaschini" ("My Christmas Tree: From Reggiana to Real Madrid, stories, schemes and secret notes from a maestro of football and humanity (And everything else)" by Carlo Ancelotti and Giorgio Ciaschini, published by Rizzoli in November 2013 with a retail price of EUR 23,40.

Links to Learn More About the Book

Italian version           Spanish version

Carlo Michelangelo Ancelotti has literally and figuratively given us a detailed look at his personal notebooks compiled after 18 years of professional football management. Like the manager, this book is presented in precise, meticulous and carefully-organized detail. Like the man, this book goes beyond schematic drawings, tactical discussions, wins and losses at the highest level of professional football to provide a candid, personal and humane touch about his chosen craft.

About His Co-Author

Giorgio Ciaschini began his professional playing career as a goalkeeper in 1968 for Lanerossi Vicenza. He also played for Mantova, Vis Pessaro and Fano, respectively. He has assisted Carlo Ancelotti as a technical consultant since 1995.

Meticulously Organized Format

At his book launch for the Spanish version in Madrid, Spain,
during November 2013.

There is a brief introduction, a detailed table of contents, eleven chapters, a concise tactical terminology glossary guide, an easy-to-reference index of players' and coaches' names along with Mr. Ancelotti's C.V. (Which impressively indicated he has managed eight players who have won the Ballon d'Or). You will see that the co-authors placed a premium on organization. Their format is crisp, concise, logical and highly instructional.

In my opinion, this book was written for professional coaches, those who aspire to that environment and/or readers with a elevated level of footballing knowledge. Despite the target audience, the co-authors were able to translate their notable acumen into a presentation that is engaging, informative and instructional for anyone with an interest in football. This book is a rare one-on-one teaching guide from a leading protagonist in world football. Mr. Ancelotti addresses the reader directly in his narrative which enhances an already considerate and friendly writing style. For example, "The manager always thinks, 'Us.' The player almost always thinks, 'Me.' " (Page 17)

A Coaching and Management Guide

The discussions about aerobic and strength exercises, communication techniques, daily/weekly training methodologies, motivational and psychological factors of player management might have a transcending effect outside of professional coaching ranks. The generous common-sense coaching advice outlined in this book would assist youth and amateur-level coaches in a variety of sports. Especially with regards to how Mr. Ancelotti offers suggestions, solutions and at times, candid examples when he got the plot wrong. 

Brilliantly Detailed Diagrams and Explanations

Image credit: Rizzoli.
Mr. Ancelotti goes into much more detail with the schematic diagrams here than at his "A-Cademy" coaching education website. To my untrained eyes, they appear similar to mathematical formulae: A universally-understood language by like-minded people.

The precise level of detail was outstanding. Experienced coaches most likely won't need to read supporting explanations to know exactly what the co-authors desire to convey. All readers will benefit from the accompanying text which is a cherry on top of the cake.

An Analysis of His Ten Favorite Games

With quotes by Rafael Benitez, Jerzy Dudek, Steven Gerrard,
Paolo Maldini and Clarence Seedorf.

While Mr. Ancelotti covered a wide selection of his favorite games to analyze with schematic diagrams and commentary, most readers will likely hone in like a laser on one in particular: AC Milan v. Liverpool FC at the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul, Turkey. We rarely have seen or heard a detailed Milan insider's perspective of this historic encounter. Andrea Pirlo gave a succinct analysis in his book, "Penso Quindi Gioco":
"We didn't speak, we didn't move about, we were wiped out and annihilated mentally. The damage, which was already evident in those minutes, clearly appeared in all of its force in the following hours. Insomnia, anger, depression, a sense of emptiness. We had invented a new illness with multiple symptoms: Istanbul Syndrome." (Page 83)
Obviously, I was interested to see Mr. Ancelotti's analysis:
"I promised myself not to go over this anymore... Even when I started to write this book, I said to myself, 'Why?' 
After the break, Liverpool came back out with a change which at that moment didn't seem to modify the situation much at all. But in reanalyzing the game, it was really influential. The insertion of Hamann for Finnan, a midfielder for a defender, redesigned, in part, the tactical aspect. They threw out the 4-4-1-1 and went to a 3-5-2... That change brought notable difficulties for my team to cover on the flanks...
We lost the game in six incredible, fatal minutes." (Pages 207, 208, 210, 214)

Notable Quotes from His Coaching Journey

Image credit:
360 Network.

The Italian National Team (Assistant Manager at World Cup 1994)

Arrigo Sacchi:

"I never had as intelligent a player as him, one who made more of his ability and could  cover so much of the pitch without the need to be a beast physically. He adapted to any position". 

"I wanted to finish my playing career before someone else me made me understand that I had indeed quit even before deciding. The impact with a reality of the national team was very positive. And almost from the start, I was able to insert myself without difficulties in my new role... Now, looking back at that time, if I had to suggest what type of attitude an aspiring coach should have in a similar situation, I'd tell him to put great curiosity and openness in front of the new road ahead. 
I learned a great deal from Sacchi. He asked so much of himself but also from those at his side. It was the best way to learn. He helped me understand how to motivate a team, or an individual player, for a short period of time or a much longer one." (Page 16)

Image taken by me from a Marca video
promoting the Spanish version of his book,
"Mi Arbol De Navidad", in November 2013.

"In my opinion, to manage a side that had just been relegated (Reggiana) into Serie B would have given me the possibility to direct a group, along with a working environment, that was full of the desire for redemption and therefore one with great motivations." (Page 55)


Hernan Crespo photo HernanCrespo4copy.jpg
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

"We were in front of a pure-blooded goal scorer. When I sent out Hernan Crespo and he didn't score, those who didn't know me, and surely didn't love me, yelled out at the top of their lungs. I also had an affectionate heckler who from behind the bench, at every game, repeated continuously, 'Sub him out...' I believed in Hernan because I saw his enormous potential." (Page 79)


"(Zinedine) Zidane was a special player and didn't resemble anyone. He was simply Zidane, and when he was at his best, believe me, Juventus went out on the pitch with a much calmer soul. Without Zidane, the bus didn't leave the station. Even if it was late by an hour." (Page 92)

AC Milan

Paolo Maldini photo Maldini.jpg
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

"At Milan, it's not enough to win to stay on, and it isn't enough to lose to get sacked... (Adriano) Galliani was the Milan football club and at the same time, together naturally with the President, its number one fan.

I believe one of the strong points of this club, which has created so many successes over time, was due to the fact at the top there are people, besides expressing the utmost competence and professionalism, who love the team in a visceral manner." (Pages 105-106)

Chelsea FC

 photo Chelseateam2.jpg
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

"By accepting the offer of Chelsea in the summer of 2009 meant to face an enthusiastic challenge, and it put me in front of a professional passage that in my opinion, every manager should be able to make. Chelsea, being such a top club, offered extraordinary structure and organization.

And I had a team of absolute value at my disposal. England from a professional perspective, its sporting manners and the atmosphere that you experience inside the stadia, was a marvelous surprise for me." (Page 137)

Paris Saint-Germain

Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

"It was the first time that I found myself, together naturally with other members of the club, building an environment from almost nothing that was the fruits of all of our collective professional knowledge gained over the years. And therefore, completely aligned with my expectations." (Page 159)

Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo3
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

"Who would have ever thought I'd find myself sitting on the bench of one of the most prestigious teams in the world? Managing Real Madrid is an honor and an immense personal satisfaction. Real Madrid is not simply a football club. It is the Club." (Page 225)

The Craft of Football Management by A Coach's Coach

This book is not an easy read. The protagonist forces you to think about football, and especially the coaching aspect, in novel and deeper ways. Few coaches in any sport share such detailed expertise during their careers."Il Mio Albero di Natale" will likely become a seminal work in this genre. In my opinion, this book will be difficult to equal by a still-active manager.

Mr. Ancelotti manages and develops the whole man and not just merely the footballer. He also understands how the senior side manager impacts an entire football club at all levels. Both of those concepts were shared in generous fashion in this book.

This is the type of book that you will read once, take copious notes, and then refer to it over and over again. You will study more than read it. And perhaps that was the prime intent of "il Mister," Carlo Ancelotti.

Please Note

I did not receive a complimentary review copy from the publisher, Rizzoli. I was not compensated by the publisher, the co-authors or any party who would benefit from a positive review.

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Carlo Ancelotti photo ancelotti.jpg
Carlo Ancelotti,
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

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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