Real Madrid's legacy under Jose Mourinho left the word "divisive" on most minds, but new manager Carlo Ancelotti is not about to wave a giant white flag in the dressing room, even if he has taken a liking to the tag of “peacemaker”.
It is not the first time that Ancelotti has taken over a club once managed by Mourinho. The Italian joined Chelsea at a time when the Stamford Bridge outfit were still reeling from the lack of success following Mourinho's exit, with Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari unable to capture the Premier League crown the Portuguese had skilfully delivered.
Ancelotti promptly turned back the clock to put the Blues back on top of the Premier League, but at the end of the 2010/11 campaign found himself out of work owing to failure on the European stage. The Italian is using the same target as a motivation this time, while promising "spectacular football", but faces his first challenge in the form of reuniting Real Madrid under one banner.
The last few months of Mourinho's stay at the Bernabeu were peppered with reports of dissatisfaction as the Portuguese's relationship with players, including with Cristiano Ronaldo, reached an all-time low. Veteran Iker Casillas had been put on the bench, the team were not making up lost ground to Barcelona in La Liga, while their Champions League charge was extinguished by a classy Borussia Dortmund side.
With Mourinho gone, the chance to clean up has fallen to Ancelotti, who has been backed to become a peacemaker by his counterpart from Napoli in Rafael Benitez.
But ask Ancelotti if his new club are in trouble, and the answer is fresh out of his wizened PR sense. "I’ve never been called that", he said. "I don't think Real Madrid need a 'peacemaker'. It's a nice word though, so thanks! I'm a coach and I want to have a good relationship with all the players. It was the same as when I was at other clubs."
Once the ominous "team-building" task is out of the way, he still has to ensure star assets do not leave. Ronaldo may have a €1 billion release clause, but one day, as his contract dwindles, he may leave for less than that. The question remains if Ancelotti is prepared to incur the wrath of fans by selling a player who himself is seemingly is not keen on an extension.
For now the former AC Milan coach is keeping his cards very close to his chest regarding those players who may have been on the wrong end of the Mourinho stick. "It's an honour to coach a player like Cristiano", he said. "He is a fantastic, marvellous player. Casillas is a fantastic goalkeeper. He has won everything."
Alongside retaining players, Real Madrid are a buying club – and they only buy the best. Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale was voted the best player in England by his fellow professionals, and neutrals will see the combination of the Welshman and Los Blancos as a match made in heaven. With Neymar already lost to Barcelona, another defeat in the transfer market will not be the best of starts to Ancelotti's reign. No amount of talk on Luis Suarez will make up for it.
At a club where even playing badly despite a win can cause white handkerchiefs to be pulled from pockets and waved furiously, Ancelotti will be expected to bring success from the word go. Los Blancos may be "a dream that became a reality" for the wily tactician, but the real work starts now.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was keen to explain in the aftermath of the Italian’s signing that he had predicted Ancelotti's arrival a few years ago. "Carlo, I said to you: 'You will be my coach'", Perez explained. "That day has arrived. The challenge starts here, and here the challenges are always huge. Nothing he has experienced before will be like what he will experience at this historic club."
The promised "season of happiness" is almost certain to have some storms, but it would appear Ancelotti has much more than a 90-minute game to win the first time he steps into the dugout.