Bayern Munich will chase a fifth straight Bundesliga title when the new season starts on Friday, with new coach Carlo Ancelotti attempting to continue the dominance forged by predecessors Pep Guardiola and Jupp Heynckes.
The Bayern hierarchy are expecting the 57-year-old Ancelotti to keep the Bavarian giants, who kick off the new season at home to Werder Bremen on Friday, at the pinnacle of German football.
Guardiola quit for Manchester City at the end of last season, after sealing a third consecutive league title and the German Cup.
Heynckes had signed off by delivering Bayern’s first major treble in 2013 when they lifted the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles.
But Ancelotti has already won some silverware after just two competitive games.
Bayern’s 2-0 victory at Borussia Dortmund ten days ago gave them the German Super Cup title, ending a run of three successive defeats in the season-opener under Guardiola.
Like Heynckes before him, Italian Ancelotti has a reputation of being a father-figure, who instills confidence in his players, in contrast to Guardiola, who dishes out specific instructions.
Bayern regard themselves as a family club and Ancelotti has already followed that tradition by appointing his son Davide, a former AC Milan youth-team player, to his back-room staff, as he did during his spell at Real Madrid.
It has not taken long for praise for Ancelotti to include some criticism of Guardiola from within the Bayern camp.
“Under Ancelotti, I finally feel like I’m trusted again,” winger Franck Ribery told German magazine Kicker, before taking a swipe at Guardiola.
“I don’t need a coach to tell me what I have to do right on the pitch when I have the ball,” said Ribery in reference to Guardiola, which earned him a ticking off from Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
– ‘A friend and a coach’ –
But Ribery is not the only player to criticise Guardiola during his time with Bayern – Stoke City winger Xherdan Shaqiri left Munich in 2015, suffering from a lack of belief from his coach.
“He is a very good coach in terms of what happens on the pitch, but his communication wasn’t so good with me. He doesn’t say to the players why,” the Swiss star told the Daily Mail when asked about Guardiola’s manner when dropping players.
In contrast, Ancelotti will start with Bayern having been given the seal of approval by some of football’s big names.
“He just knows how to treat a man,” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who worked with Ancelotti at Paris-Saint Germain.
“He is not just your trainer, he is your friend. It’s incredible.”
And Cristiano Ronaldo was full of praise for Ancelotti’s style after the Italian won the Champions League title in the first of his two seasons with Real Madrid in 2014.
“I wish every player had the opportunity to work with him, because he’s a fantastic guy, a fantastic coach,” said Ronaldo.
While Guardiola has won six league titles, three each with Barcelona and Bayern, Ancelotti has just three — in Serie A with AC Milan in 2004, the Premier League with Chelsea in 2010 and Ligue 1 with PSG in 2013.
But Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times, including twice with AC Milan, while Bayern slipped to three successive semi-final defeats under Guardiola’s tutelage.
“I’m trying to bring my own ideas here, but Pep’s style of play was very good and I hope the players don’t forget that,” said Ancelotti, as he prepares for his first Bundesliga season.
He has already won the respect of his main Bundesliga rival.
“He has opened my eyes to how beautiful and spectacular football can be,” said Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel before his side’s Super Cup defeat.
“He will bring us all, me as well, to a new level, because my team can be compared to his.”