After securing a long-awaited 10th European crown for Real Madrid in 2013-14, Carlo Ancelotti was always likely to find it tough to scale those heights again during what proved his final season in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A campaign preceded by plenty of squad changes began promisingly, with a UEFA Super Cup success over Sevilla, but Real were edged out of La Liga’s title race by Barcelona and exited the UEFA Champions League in the final four.
Super Cup and Club World Cup trophies alone are not enough to satisfy Real and Ancelotti paid the price as his exit was announced at the end of the season.
ALL CHANGE AS DI MARIA AND ALONSO DEPART
Ancelotti was backed in the transfer market ahead of the new campaign as James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos arrived from Monaco and Bayern Munich respectively.
Stars of the World Cup, the pair replaced Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso as Real ushered in something of a new era.
After Rodriguez and Kroos helped lift the Super Cup, Ancelotti asserted his Real squad of “extraordinary quality” could “be entering a successful cycle”.
THE 22-MATCH WINNING STREAK
Real’s campaign began swimmingly as Ancelotti’s side bounced back from defeat to rivals Atletico by winning 22 games on the spin.
The Club World Cup title was claimed as a result, before the streak of victories was halted by a 2-0 defeat at Valencia.
“This won’t affect us because we know all the things we have done well until now,” Ancelotti explained afterwards.
While Gareth Bale enjoyed a dream start to life at the Bernabeu, his second season proved rocky.
A largely anonymous showing in Real’s UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Juventus was the tip of the iceberg as the Welshman also seemingly bore the brunt of Ronaldo’s anger for shooting instead of passing during a victory over Levante in March.
The Spanish press pulled no punches either, stating president Florentino Perez had “paid €100million for a player worth €20m”.
ANCELOTTI UNDER PRESSURE
Following January’s defeat to Valencia, pressure gradually increased on Ancelotti as Real bowed out of the Copa del Rey to Atletico while Barca hit top gear in La Liga.
Atleti proved a constant menace through the season and, despite Javier Hernandez settling the sides’ UEFA Champions League quarter-final, Ancelotti was let go two days after Real’s season-ending 7-3 win over Getafe.
Ronaldo described Ancelotti as a “great coach and amazing person” prior to his departure, while the Italian hailed a “fantastic two years” at the club via Twitter.
RONALDO’S PROLIFIC CAMPAIGN
The Portugal captain was in inspired form yet again as he joined club legends Raul and Alfredo Di Stefano in scoring 300 goals for Real.
Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo continued his tussle with Lionel Messi for domestic and European supremacy, the former’s highlights including a five-goal blitz against Granada and a final-day hat-trick against Getafe – his eighth treble of the season.
“Ronaldo is simply phenomenal,” explained team-mate Karim Benzema after Ronaldo’s five-star showing in the Granada match.
LA LIGA AND CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FAILURES
Real and Barca shared La Liga’s Clasico spoils but Luis Enrique’s side proved too hot to handle over the season, while Ancelotti’s former club Juventus did the damage to Real’s hopes in Europe.
Former Real striker Alvaro Morata was instrumental for Juve as Real were denied a final meeting with Barca, losing their two-legged semi-final 3-2 on aggregate.
“Injuries have burdened us, especially [the absence of Luka] Modric,” said Ancelotti. “I think that with Isco, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, the team played well and we achieved many victories with this system.”
Ancelotti was eventually let go on May 25 after two seasons at the helm.
While the Italian struggled to finish with a flourish and exited a year from the end of his contract, his delivery of the much-craved ‘Decima’ to the Bernabeu will always see him held in high regard.
“What did Ancelotti do wrong? I don’t know. The demands here at Real Madrid are very high,” said Perez.
“The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo is the same as the affection I myself have for him.”