The first nine seconds of Real Madrid-Juventus last Saturday at the Rose Bowl of Pasadena were very close to assuming a bingo for the think tank of Davide Ancelotti, assistant coach of the Whites. Luka Modric sent in a cross and nine seconds later Karim Benzema kicked the ball into the net, although the referee disallowed the goal for offside. The dazzling game is a football-inspired creation that Davide has insisted on, honed, in several games since returning from the Champions League qualifiers. He tried this same combination in the quarter-final return against Chelsea, in the semi-final return against City and in the Parisian final against Liverpool.
The shot starts with Modric’s center kick towards Casemiro, while Benzema, Valverde and Carvajal gather on the right flank, next to the boundary line. After serving, the Croatian runs to the opposite goal, stops and runs back, throwing his marker out of place. Casemiro returns the ball, which he gives to Kroos on first touch, who also throws it on first touch like a deep quarterback to the right wing, where Carvajal and Valverde run. In the canonical execution, the winger crosses at the far post, where Benzema and Vinicius arrive to finish.
In Pasadena, after a precise development of movements and passes, Valverde, who had gone offside, went for the ball without waiting for Carvajal, who was in the right position, to reach it. In this meter ahead of the celebration of the Uruguayan Davide was drowned.
Carlo Ancelotti’s son completes the Madrid coach’s footballing experience with a more modern vision in some respects and with the support of the latest analysis techniques, both video and data. Davide started working with Carlo at an early age, and was already at Valdebebas during his first spell with Madrid, the season which ended with the tenth European Cup in Lisbon in 2014. However, he was then working in another department, as assistant coach physicist, Giovanni Mauri. Today, as an assistant coach, he has formed an analysis and tactical development team in which he works hand in hand with Francesco Mauri, the son of this physical trainer.
Solutions such as kick-offs are born out of this, ideas that, according to sources close to the task force, seek surprise through study and repetition. Davide drafts the proposals, which are then submitted to the judgment of the team closest to Ancelotti, which includes Mauri but also Luis Llopis, who is more than the goalkeeping coach and promoter of Courtois’ outburst last year. With the ideas to press the options for corners, free-kicks, and kick-offs onto the table, Carlo brings his experience, weighs the pros and cons, and ends up deciding which solutions to try. This fieldwork, like most training at Valdebebas, is led by Davide, while Carlo observes and analyzes.
Lab-imagined free-kicks and corners have appeared at different times throughout the season, but the careful kick-off choreography was reserved for the Champions League qualifiers. The first big test was seen in the second leg of the round of 16, against Paris Saint-Germain at the Bernabéu. Madrid entered the break behind on the scoreboard (0-1) and overtaken in the game by a team launched by Kylian Mbappé.
On the way back from the locker room, Modric clinches Valverde, threatens to run forward, comes back, receives, gives it to Asensio, and he throws a through pass through the cross to Vinicius’ run which almost reaches a ball who ends up controlling Donnarumma five and a half seconds into the serve. The game was a carbon copy of one that ended with Bournesmouth scoring at Fulham three months earlier in the English second.
In the following match at the Bernabéu, Madrid kicked off against Chelsea. Moments earlier, the production showed Davide Ancelotti forcefully and somewhat anxiously correcting a player’s position. Something was brewing. In the version that ended in a goal not allowed at the Rose Bowl, Modric took out Casemiro, faked the run… The ball came clean to Kroos, who shot on the right wing, but the runners had not found of space and there the test was diluted.
But Davide had seen something promising in this slightly more elaborate development, nine seconds instead of six, and insisted on the next draw at the Bernabéu, the second leg of the semi-finals in which they had to come back from 4-3 in the first leg against Manchester City. With 0-0 at the break, Modric put the ball in the middle at the break and activated the choreography. It worked so well that Vinicius found himself alone against a defeated Ederson. But the auction took place for little.
The routine seemed greased, and Real Madrid tried again three weeks later in the final in Paris. But Liverpool, with one of the best analyst teams in the worlddidn’t fall into Modric’s trap, so Casemiro couldn’t return the ball and the maneuver didn’t go beyond the first pass.
Two months later, in the third game of the pre-season, Davide’s same choreography stunned Juve in Pasadena, but some haste from Valverde canceled the goal.
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