Carlo Ancelotti and Gennaro Gattuso enjoyed a trophy-laden spell at Milan but now have ‘personal problems’ stemming from their stints as Napoli managers – the duo meet in the Spanish Super Cup tonight in a Saudi Arabian backdrop of little fanfare
- Spanish Super Cup is taking place this week – with it being held in Saudi Arabia
- Real Madrid face Valencia in the first semi-final on Wednesday in Ridayh
- Twenty four hours later Barcelona take on Real Betis with the final on Sunday
Carlo Ancelotti and Gennaro Gattuso were like footballing father and son at Milan but there was no playing happy families when the former spoke about the latter in his media conference ahead of Wednesday night’s first semi-final of the four-team Spanish Super Cup.
Speaking about the now Valencia coach, Ancelotti said: ‘We had very nice moments, winning two Champions Leagues, that I will always remember. But then the relationship doesn’t always continue to be good and we have had problems that are personal and that I don’t want to talk about.’
Laid-back Ancelotti doesn’t seem like one to hold a grudge, nor does he usually fire-off anything incendiary in his pre-match interviews but it seems he has not forgotten the events of late 2019 when Gattuso replaced him as Napoli boss.
Carlo Ancelotti didn’t hold back about Gennaro Gattuso ahead of the Spanish Super Cup semi
The pair used to be like footballing father and son at Milan – winning multiple trophies together
Exactly what it was about the hand-over he didn’t like is not clear but it seems the fact that Gattuso never tipped him off that Napoli club president Aurelio De Laurentiis was talking to him behind Carlo’s back with a view to giving him his job is the crux of the subsequent bad feeling. He also wasn’t too happy about Gattuso’s comments, once he had taken over, that he inherited a team that was in bad physical shape.
‘He knows I respect him a lot, it was a work problem,’ said Gattuso when he spoke after Ancelotti on Tuesday. He added: ‘Things were said in the media in Naples. There was a problem.’
Ancelotti is unlikely to come out screaming ‘Vendata!’ at the King Fahd stadium on Wednesday night, but there may well be a colder than expected exchange pre-kick-off, for all that it appears Gattuso regrets the breakdown in relations with the coach who launched his playing career making him his midfield general winning two European Cups in 2002-03 and 2006-07.
Their first meeting as coaches will decide which team goes into Sunday’s Super Cup final, in what is the third season in which the Spanish version of the Community shield – extended to the league and cup runners-up – is played 3,000 miles from Spain in Riyadh.
However, their once-strong relationship soured when Gattuso replaced Ancelotti at Napoli
Football fever had not exactly gripped the Saudi capital with one Spanish radio journalist revealing that when he passed through customs he was asked why he was in the country and when he said ‘for the football’ he was told ‘but the World Cup is over’.
Neither Wednesday night’s semi-final nor Thursday’s between Betis and Barcelona is a sell-out but for Sunday’s final the ‘sold-out’ signs went up long ago. Local expectation is for a ‘Clasico’ play-off in the final but Valencia and particularly Betis may well have something to say about that.
Betis are fourth and even without Aston Villa-bound Alex Moreno at left back they have the players to test a Barcelona side who want to win Xavi his first trophy as coach. All eyes will be on Betis’ big centre forward Borja Iglesias who was top of Atletico Madrid’s wanted list to replace Joao Felix until they were told by Betis: a loan until the end of the season? You must be joking.
Barcelona are in good shape after extending their lead at the top of LaLiga to three points at the weekend. But Xavi’s team are only ever a defeat away from a crisis of confidence and that will apply if they are beaten in the semi-final or in the weekend final, especially if it’s again Madrid.
Barcelona have Robert Lewandowski available for the semi-final against Real Betis in a boost
They start as favourites with Robert Lewandowski available because his three-match ban only applies to the league. The Polish forward has 18 goals in all competitions so far this season and wants to win his first trophy with Barcelona.
In Wednesday night’s first semi-final Valencia have nothing to lose after two-straight defeats in the league confirmed their already outsider status. They will fear Karim Benzema who has scored three goals in two goals since the season restarted. But they have their own talisman in Edinson Cavani.
The Uruguayan also dropped a grenade in his press conference on Tuesday although it wasn’t about the Super Cup. ‘If they punish me for hitting the VAR [monitor] then the referee should be jailed for taking us out of the World Cup’, he said of his sad, angry exit from the World Cup in neighbouring Qatar.
Back in Spain the anger at the tournament being taken abroad has long since subsided. And early skepticism over making it a four-team event has also disappeared.
What does remain is bad feeling at the smaller clubs that they will not receive the same amount of money from the tournament as Barcelona and Real Madrid. Of the £35.5million the Spanish Football Federation receives from Saudi Arabia; Barca and Real are guaranteed a £2.5m appearance fee while Valencia will be paid closer to £1.5m for their participation, and Betis might take as little as £667,000. Even more reason for the two smaller clubs to reach, and win Sunday’s final and pick up the £1.8m prize money on offer.
Real Betis will fancy their chances against Barca on Thursday with Borja Iglesias (left) prolific
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