In mild-mannered Italian Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez may finally have found the man capable of sculpting his expensively assembled squad into a unit capable of delivering an elusive tenth European crown.
Ancelotti’s side produced a devastating performance at Bayern Munich on Tuesday to humble the holders 4-0, and advance 5-0 on aggregate to their first Champions League final since they won a record-extending ninth continental title in 2002.
During two stints at the helm of the world’s richest club by income since 2000, construction magnate Perez has been through eight coaches and the club have splurged more than €600 million on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale over the past five years.
However, not even Ancelotti’s immediate predecessor Jose Mourinho, who was sent packing after three divisive years in charge, could deliver what Perez so desperately wants – the tenth crown, known in Spain as the “decima”.
Tuesday’s stunning result at the Allianz Arena, Bayern’s heaviest home defeat in European competition, set up a trip to the showpiece final in Lisbon on 24 May.
The victory was all the sweeter as Bayern, who knocked Real out at the same stage two years ago, are now coached by Pep Guardiola, who had four trophy-laden years in charge at Real’s bitter rivals Barcelona between 2008 and 2012.
“Florentino Perez was very happy and congratulated everyone. When he is happy he does not need to speak,” Ancelotti said after two goals apiece by Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo carried Real to victory.
“The club’s desire to reach the final after playing in three semi-finals was huge,” added the 54-year-old, who won the Champions League twice with AC Milan as a player and twice as a coach.
“And also having the chance of winning the decima was an extra motivation. After a 12-year absence Madrid is back in a Champions League final and that’s good for everyone.
“Being in the final is the first objective, which is not easy. I am lucky to coach the most important club in the world and I have to do everything I can to get the best results.”
Real began Ancelotti’s debut season in charge shakily, but he has found what appears to be a winning formula with a mean defence and one of the most lethal attacks in football.
Tuesday’s match showcased the talents of the forward trio – Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo – as Real overwhelmed the Bundesliga champions.
Ancelotti has settled on a three-man midfield of Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria, while at the back Ramos and Pepe provide solidity in the centre with the reliable Dani Carvajal and Fabio Coentrao on either flank.
Perhaps more importantly, Ancelotti has brought harmony back to the dressing room after the Mourinho years, when he sidelined captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and fell out with key figures in the dressing room like Ronaldo and Ramos.
“We have achieved it through hard work and if you do it with quality players it’s much easier to win,” Ancelotti said. “Football has given me so much and I have the desire and energy to work to take this club, its fans and its players to the top.
“When I arrived in Madrid I realised the importance of this competition and I could feel the dream of winning the decima in the air. That is why we reached the final. We hope to have the same attitude in the final.”
The only negative for Real on one of the greatest nights in their glittering history was a yellow card for Alonso that ruled the Spain international out of the final.
His absence will be a big blow as he controls Real’s play from his deep-lying central position and is a consummate passer and highly effective ball winner.
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
• Email your Scottish football question for the BT Sport panel to answer. The next show will be recorded on May 7 after St Johnstone v Celtic with the video available on The Scotsman website the following day. You can also tweet us @TheScotsman.
A line-up of experts will handle your questions after each BT Sport game. Most match days, the team includes Darrell Currie, Derek Rae and Gary McAllister.
Over this season, BT Sport will air 30 SPFL matches plus 10 Rangers games from the SPFL League One.
• T&C We can not guarantee which presenters will answer your questions. Questions are vetted and no correspondence will be entered into.