Posted June 25, 2013 on AP on Fox
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It was no surprise when Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain named their new coaches almost simultaneously on Tuesday. For weeks, the clubs were tied together over the fate of Carlo Ancelotti. Ultimately, with a year to go on his contract at PSG, Ancelotti was successfully lured by Madrid. At the same time, PSG filled the void left by Ancelotti by settling on Laurent Blanc, who was last seen on a sideline leading France at the 2012 European Championship. Both teams got the men they wanted, winners of titles as players and coaches. Madrid got a coach with a little less ego than Jose Mourinho and a little more sensitivity, while PSG didn't get its first, second or third choice, but a respected figure all the same. After rebuffing Madrid for weeks, even before PSG clinched its first French league title in 19 years on May 12, the club gave in to Ancelotti's desire to leave and Madrid's deeper pockets. Following Mourinho's three tumultuous seasons, Ancelotti received a three-year contract and the immediate task of rebuilding trust in a dressing room riven by his predecessor. He will be presented at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday. Ancelotti will also have to nail down his squad, with striker Gonzalo Higuain likely leaving and the club linked to attempts for Tottenham winger Gareth Bale after losing a complex bidding war for Neymar to Barcelona. Ancelotti will also need to resolve three hefty problems inherited from Mourinho: To find a way to definitely break Barcelona's hold on the Spanish league; win the Champions League after Madrid lost in the semifinals for three straight years; and decide if he gives goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas back his starting role, or continues to favor newcomer - and Mourinho's preferred keeper - Diego Lopez. Mourinho broke Barcelona's grip on the domestic league for one season, but was unable to win for Madrid an elusive 10th Champions League. Madrid hailed Ancelotti on Tuesday, saying he'd been ''elected best coach in all leagues where he has coached: Italy, England and France.'' Ancelotti, who won the European Cup twice as a player for AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, won Champions League crowns as the club coach in 2003 and 2007, and the Serie A in 2004. He led Chelsea - the club Mourinho now coaches - to the English Premier League title and FA Cup in 2010. PSG spent lavishly in Ancelotti's two seasons, with an outlay of around 260 million euros ($340 million) to secure big names like striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and center back Thiago Silva. Despite having such talent at his disposal, Ancelotti struggled to get the squad to play cohesively. Under him, PSG never went beyond the quarterfinals of any domestic cup competition. When Ancelotti joined PSG during the winter break of the 2011-12 season, replacing Antoine Kombouare, it held a three-point lead over Montpellier, only to lose the league title by three points. The club recovered from that blow to win the league last season, finishing eight points clear of Marseille, despite a mid-season rocky patch that led to Ancelotti openly questioning the commitment of his players. PSG reportedly went after Fabio Capello, Andre Villas-Boas, Rafael Benitez and other high-profile managers before opting to give Blanc a two-year contract. PSG was also apparently not Blanc's first choice. Only after Roma took Rudi Garcia did Blanc turn back to PSG, and the lack of total commitment by each side was written into a contract in which the second year was reportedly an optional year as the club's hierarchy keep an eye on the situation at English club Arsenal, where Arsene Wenger has one season left on his contract. Wenger has long been a favorite of PSG's cash-rich Qatari-based owners, QSI. Blanc, a 1998 World Cup winner as an attacking midfielder for France, coached Bordeaux to the French title and League Cup in 2009, and was handed the reins to France a year later. He entered Euro 2012 on a 21-match unbeaten run, but the team's discipline and effort fell apart and France meekly bowed out to Spain in the quarterfinals. A year later, he's a manager again. --- AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed.
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