Carlo Ancelotti is a man in the news right now following his sending off for his vociferous protests at Everton being denied a late winner against Manchester United in the Premier League.
The 60-year-old Everton boss is among the most successful managers in world football, having won a grand total of 20 trophies, and he is one of only three managers to have won the European Cup or Champions League thrice, and the only one to have won all three not with a single club. Having had managerial stints at the likes of AC Milan, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich, Ancelotti has managed no shortage of world class footballers over the years.
I have previously done four videos like this about the best players sold by a certain manager, but only long-term subscribers are likely to remember any of them, since that was two years ago now. I owe a thank you to Admir Bekric who suggested that I make a long-delayed return to the series, and if there are any other managers you’d like to see a similar video about in the future, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.
Here are 7 great players who were sold by Carlo Ancelotti:
It’s worth pointing out that this seven is based on how good the players were at the time of the sale, with more of an emphasis on what they went on to achieve than what they had already achieved. Ancelotti has sold the likes of Kaka, Jaap Stam, and Andriy Shevchenko, for example, but all three were winding down their careers at the time of those moves and therefore don’t make this seven. Italian midfielder Jorginho does make this seven, and he is the second most expensive sale in Ancelotti’s managerial career. The gifted deep-lying playmaker had been integral to Napoli’s play under Maurizio Sarri, and the outgoing boss took Jorginho with him to Chelsea in 2018 for a potential £57 million shortly after Ancelotti arrived in Naples.
6. Xabi Alonso
Whilst you could try to put Xabi Alonso in the ‘past it’ category of Ancelotti sales, I simply don’t think that was the case. The Spanish maestro spent a season playing under Ancelotti at Real Madrid, and Alonso played 42 times as Real won both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. The 2010 World Cup winner is only thought to have cost Bayern Munich £8 million in the summer of 2014, and he went on to have three excellent seasons in Bavaria. Alonso made the Bundesliga Team of the Season in his debut campaign and was a regular throughout his time at Bayern, adding five trophies to his already enormous trophy cabinet.
5. Mesut Ozil
I’ve no doubt Mesut Ozil’s inclusion ahead of the likes of Michael Ballack and Didier Deschamps will be a topic of debate in the comments, but there’s no doubt in my mind that at the time Ancelotti sold those players, Ozil was the outstanding candidate. Unlike Alonso, Ozil didn’t even get a season under Ancelotti, despite having had three sensational campaigns at the Bernabeu. During his three years in Madrid, Ozil never finished outside of the top 16 in Ballon d’Or voting, in addition to winning multiple German Footballer of the Year awards. The so-called ‘Assist King’ joined Arsenal for a club record £42.5 million, and earnt a lot of plaudits in his first four seasons under Arsene Wenger. Complaints about the Germans poor work rate have become increasingly prominent over the last few seasons, but he’s still good value for a place in fifth based on his talents at the time of the sale.
4. Gonzalo Higuian
Carlo Ancelotti inherited a fantastic group of players at Real Madrid in 2013, and they dominate this seven, with Gonzalo Higuain being the third consecutive Real sale to feature. Higuain scored 121 goals in 264 games for Real Madrid, but Karim Benzema appeared to have won the fight for Real’s number nine shirt by 2013. Higuain joined Napoli for €40 million, where he scored 91 goals in 146 games in three seasons, before being signed by Juventus for €90 million. Higuain proved during his time with Napoli that he was a world class marksman when Ancelotti let him go, although he hasn’t been quite as impressive for Juve since his debut campaign.
3. Angel Di Maria
It’s a fairly widely – yet incorrectly – held belief that Angel Di Maria was rubbish at Manchester United following his then-club record move from Real Madrid in 2014, but that really wasn’t the case. Di Maria was sold by Ancelotti after a single season under the Italian, and it was the best season of his career. Di Maria’s place in the Real side had been questioned following the arrival of Gareth Bale, but Ancelotti found a more central new role for the Argentine. In the 2013-14 campaign, Di Maria scored 11 goals in 52 games for Real as they won the double, before helping Argentina to a World Cup final, earning him a place in the 2014 FIFPro World XI. The former Benfica man followed that up with a good season in a mid-transition Manchester United side, and has been magnificent ever since joining PSG in 2015.
2. Gianfranco Zola
The earliest of Ancelotti’s player sales to make this seven and the only one from his two-year spell with Parma, Gianfranco Zola was sold by Ancelotti in the Italians first year in charge. Chelsea were the buyers, and Zola went on to light up the Premier League and enshrine himself in Blues folklore. A magician with the ball at his feet, Zola was just as effective in the Premier League as he had been in Serie A, scoring 80 goals in 311 games at Stamford Bridge over seven seasons. Zola arrived as a 30-year-old and departed aged 37, just before Chelsea embarked on the most successful era in their history. Ancelotti was known as a fairly rigid boss during his time with Parma, selling Zola since he didn’t fit his 4-4-2 formation, but the experienced Italian has since become much more pragmatic and admitted that it was a mistake to sell Zola in 2009.
1. Thierry Henry
The top two in this seven both take us back to the 1990s, and August 1999 in the case of Thierry Henry. Carlo Ancelotti was appointed as Marcello Lippi’s successor at Juventus in February 1999, where Henry failed to impress him during the final few months of the 1998-99 campaign. The promising Frenchman tended to play out wide in Turin, and even as a wing-back, where he struggled to exhibit his attacking prowess. Juve sold Henry to Arsenal for £11 million in August 1999, as the Frenchman was reunited with compatriot Arsene Wenger who had coached him at Monaco. Henry went on to become arguably the finest player in the English game during the Premier League era, becoming one of the most feared centre-forwards on the planet. Ancelotti probably dropped the ball on this one, but Arsenal fans will be forever grateful that he did.