Carlo Ancelotti returns to Real Madrid tonight as Bayern Munich manager, 696 days after he last sat in the dugout at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
On that day, May, 24, 2015, the Italian’s Madrid side beat Getafe 7-3, with Cristiano Ronaldo getting a hat-trick, and Javier Hernández, James Rodríguez, Jesé Rodríguez and Marcelo also finding the net.
Martin Ødegaard also became Los Blancos‘ youngest LaLiga player when replaced the Ballon d’Or winner.
Jese is now at Las Palmas, while Ødegaard has been a disappointment and is currently plying his trade on loan at Heerenveen.
After the match, Ronaldo put a photo on Twitter with the Italian coach, saying he hoped that he would stay at the Bernabéu for the next season.
It was perhaps a surprise to the Portuguese superstar, but the board did not listen to him, with Florentino Pérez sacking Ancelotti and replacing him with Rafa Benítez.
Great coach and amazing person. Hope we work together next season. pic.twitter.com/HqHHGjGGUH
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) May 23, 2015
That turned out to be a disaster and in January 2016, the former Liverpool boss also lost his job.
He was replaced by club legend Zinédine Zidane, then manager of B team Castilla, who has led Real Madrid to their 11th Champions League glory.
Whereas Ancelotti left the club in second place, with 92 points to Barça’s 94, he’ll return to a club that currently sits top of LaLiga and looks set to win their first title since José Mourinho’s time in the Spanish capital.
We take a look at what has changed since the Italian’s departure.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s changing role
The Ronaldo that Ancelotti will face tonight is simply not the same Ronaldo that he left nearly two years ago.
His hat-trick against Getafe meant he finished with this best ever goals tally of 61 in all competitions – 48 in the league.
The Portuguese legend is having to change the way he plays as he is now 32, and has lost a bit of the explosive pace that was so crucial to his game.
That has meant that he has tended to leave the wide role we are accustomed to seeing him in order to play more centrally.
This doesn’t mean he is any less effective in the No.9 role than on the wings, and Ancelotti himself can tell you that from the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals.
Ronaldo had eight shots on goal and scored twice.
But he is still not quite the player he was.
So far this season, he has 28 goals in all competitions in 37 games, which barring a goalscoring miracle before the end of the season would be the first time since 2010/11 that Ronaldo had a record of less than a goal a game.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his age, he has also started to play in fewer games than before, which is unlike the Ronaldo of old.
He has played 75 per cent of the time possible on the pitch so far this season, the lowest percentage since his injury-hit first season in Madrid.
And the French coach has convinced him this is the way forward, with Ronaldo saying: “It’s between me and Zidane”.
James Rodríguez’s reduced game time
When Ancelotti left Spain, James was a key part of his Madrid side.
He brought the Colombian to the Bernabéu, and according to AS, played him for 84 per cent of the possible time on the pitch.
And if he leaves Real Madrid it will be no surprise.
Whereas under Ancelotti he was involved directly in 35 goals (17 goals and 18 assists) in all competitions, under Zidane this season he has just six goals and 12 assists, which is a total of 18 goals he has been directly involved in.
The 25-year-old has played just 32 per cent of the possible minutes on the pitch – 1,485 minutes compared to the 4,560 he could have done.
For a player who cost so much money, his career has really stagnated and probably for his own sake, he should leave the Spanish capital.
It would be no surprise to see him reunited with Ancelotti, who definitely rates him more than Zidane does.
When Ancelotti arrived in Madrid, it was in the middle of a goalkeeping storm.
He inherited a nightmare situation from Mourinho involving Iker Casillas, who famously didn’t get on with the Portuguese coach.
Mourinho favoured Diego López and to begin with so did Ancelotti.
In his first season in charge, he played López in the league, and Casillas in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
The two competitions that Madrid won were the two that Casillas played in, and perhaps because of this, after López’s departure and Keylor Navas’ arrival after the Italian’s first season, the club legend was restored to the No.1 spot, with the Costa Rican only playing in the cup.
Casillas wasn’t impressed.
“It is a demanding club and the president and the board have made the best decision,” he said after Ancelotti’s sacking.
“Last year I was angry because he did not play me much.”
Now, it’s a much calmer situation, probably because of Casillas’ departure.
Navas is the undisputed No.1, despite Kiko Casilla’s not-too-bad performances when he has substitued him.
There is no longer the tension that Ancelotti had to deal with over who will start in goal.
And how Ancelotti would have loved to have that much more simpler solution when he was in Spain.