Ancelotti is obsessed with the Champions League. Why would he leave Madrid for Manchester?
Pep Guardiola remains an inspiration for coaches and players, while there is no reason Carlo Ancelotti would want to leave Real Madrid for Manchester United.
One amazing night in Munich has quickened debate about two of the world's most famous coaches, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, focusing on their philosophies and futures.
Guardiola's Bayern Munich were skewered by Ancelotti's Real Madrid at the Allianz on Tuesday evening. Real won 4-0 on the night, 5-0 on aggregate, to cruise into the Champions League final in Lisbon on May 24.
Guardiola first. The current criticism of Guardiola's possession-obsessed tactics rather overlooks how much he achieved with Barcelona, introducing an intoxicating brand of passing football that brought two Champions League trophies and endless eulogies.
There are now calls in Baveria for Guardiola to mix up his style, perhaps going for the jugular quicker, a process that will surely happen when Robert Lewandowski arrives next season to give Bayern a more inviting and accomplished forward focus.
At the Allianz on Tuesday, there was some implied criticism from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern powerbroker. "We got a slap in the face," said Rummenigge. "It was a debacle what we experienced here. But we have a coach with high ability. Of course we suffered a heavy defeat but it's not appropriate on evenings like this to talk about fundamental issues."
Fundamental issues? These could range from the lack of defensive organisation against Real, something that should be being addressed on the training field, to a philosophical disagreement. Bayern shifted through the gears quickly under Jupp Heynckes in winning the Treble last season but are more deliberate, more possession-orientated under Guardiola.
They have still won the Bundesliga, and are in the final of the German Cup, but this European humiliation will hit hard. Franck Ribery's lack of influence against Real is almost symbolic of fears about Bayern losing their high-speed urgency that helped them win the Champions League under Heynckes.
Guardiola is too intelligent an individual not to tackle the issue. He is so studious about the game, having effectively reinvented it in his time at Barcelona, that he will doubtless dedicate himself to finding a better balance, a winning balance. Guardiola is a wonderful force for good, a coach whose innovative ideas form large sections of the Pro-Licence course studied by aspiring managers.
He remains an inspiration for a generation of coaches and players. Better to have somebody who coaches that the ball is a friend, to spend time with, than treat the ball as an enemy. Even if his tactics need tweaking, Guardiola and his philosophy should be cherished. Ancelotti spoke of the need for balance afterwards but made sure he praised Guardiola's "philosophy".
But Ancelotti's own tactics certainly blew Guardiola's side away. Real defended deep, then surged forward through Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Angel di Maria towards Karim Benzema and beyond. It was pace and precision on the run and brutality at set-pieces. It was individual talent and athleticism allied to intelligent coaching.
Inevitably, Ancelotti's success has seen him linked heavily with Manchester United but why would he leave Real Madrid? Why give up working with greats of the game like Ronaldo, with rising stars like Isco and particularly Bale? Why leave the most famous club in the world? United are a wonderful club, and there will be a substantial budget for enhancing the squad, but it is a major rebuilding job and they are not in the Champions League.
The European Cup obsesses Ancelotti just as it obsesses his current employers. He won it with AC Milan as a player and as a coach. When he was Chelsea manager, Ancelotti had only one photograph on the wall of his Cobham office: a picture of him cradling the European Cup at Milan. Even if he fails in Lisbon on May 24, simply reaching the final will surely ensure he is granted another chance by Real's demanding rulers.
Ancelotti tends not to fall out with people. His genuinely charming nature and being in possession of a political antenna sharpened at Milan means he walks smoothly along the corridors of power.
They love him at the Bernabeu from the tribunes to the board-room and the dressing-room. He is the king of Madrid, enjoying a wonderful lifestyle in one of the world's most elegant cities, and able to coach and prepare properly a team which does not face the crazy, intense workload of a Premier League side.
Ancelotti is perfect for working at Real: a big name without a big ego. For all United's attractions, their history and the acclaim with which he would be greeted, it is hard to see him leaving Madrid just yet. He could decide to bow out at the top, if Real prevail in Lisbon, or simply go again, attempting to retain it.
One thing is for sure: Ancelotti and Guardiola, two of the most civilized men within a sport that too often takes a walk on the wild side, will be pitting their wits against each other again soon. They are great coaches and we are privileged to be able to watch their teams.