Carlo Ancelotti is enjoying a renaissance.
The Italian coach thought his days amongst the elite of the elite were over. His two most recent jobs before he returned to the Santiago Bernabeu last summer were with Napoli and Everton.
Both are historic football clubs but neither compete at the sharp end of the European game. Many viewed his appointment by Real Madrid this past close-season to be a place-holder, a safe hand designed to usher Los Blancos into a new era.
But he’s been a whole lot more than that.
Ancelotti has built a team that plays a simple, uncomplicated system with devastating skill. He’s fostered an atmosphere that’s gotten the best out of a talented group and enjoyed success both at home and in Europe.
And if they are going to go on and beat Liverpool, there’s no doubt that Karim Benzema will be absolutely essential. The Frenchman has gone from world-class to the world’s best this season, proving decisive in a simply jaw-dropping manner.
“I have difficulty calling Benzema only a centre-forward because he’s a fantastic player that’s playing from the front,” Ancelotti told SiriusXM FC’s The Football Show.
“He’s not only a top scorer but he also provides assists for his teammates and partakes in the buildup of play. He’s a complete player and for us he’s really important because he scores so many goals. He’s a top, top player and I think he’s the best right now.
“It’s the same with [Luka] Modric. It doesn’t seem like he’s 36 because he still has the enthusiasm to play, the professionalism to be at the top all the time. They’re both really important for us.
“I think Karim became a leader of the team when [Cristiano] Ronaldo left because at that time he had more responsibility.
“Ronaldo was a player that was scoring around 50 goals a season and without him Madrid had more difficulties to score goals. Karim took on this responsibility and became more important for the team. But this squad has a lot of leaders.
“There’s not only Karim but also [Toni] Kroos, Nacho, Marcelo, Modric. All of them are good leaders and this is really important.
“We’ve been able to build a good spirit in the squad and you can see that in all the games we play, even those on the bench. They support the other players and this is the key to success. When you have a good spirit in the squad, when you have players who are able to support the others, it’s really important for success.”