After winning their ninth European Cup in 2002, the Merengues had been on a relentless – but ultimately fruitless – pursuit of La Décima. Having failed at the semi-final stage for three consecutive seasons between 2010/11 and 2012/13, Ancelotti was charged with going one step further, and in Lisbon last year he did just that, leading Real Madrid to a 4-1 extra-time victory over Club Atlético de Madrid.
"This is extra special – it's just as important as the World Cup, if not a little more so," said goalkeeper Iker Casillas, articulating just how much regaining the UEFA Champions League meant to Madrid. Other highs include Gareth Bale's individual strike against FC Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey final, while the club recorded 22 consecutive wins in all competitions between 16 September 2014 and 20 December on their way to FIFA Club World Cup glory.
Despite Ancelotti's impressive trophy haul during his two years at the club, third and second-place Liga finishes have been deemed unsatisfactory. His domestic record against direct rivals Barcelona and Atlético was not good enough. Ancelotti failed to defeat Atlético in the league, his first meeting with Diego Simeone's side resulting in a 1-0 home loss in September 2014 as the Rojiblancos ended a 14-year wait to triumph in the capital derby.
In eight meetings between the teams this term the Whites won only once. They lost both top-flight encounters, 2-1 and 4-0, as Atlético completed their first Liga double over their local rivals since 1950/51. Madrid's display in that 4-0 reverse at the Vicente Calderón was probably the lowest ebb of Ancelotti's reign. Three Clásico defeats from four in the league also weakened his case.
How the team has evolved Ancelotti inherited a squad in turmoil in summer 2013 following a trophyless campaign. However, the 55-year-old quickly eased tensions in the camp and after a bedding-in period implemented a more possession-based style, giving Luka Modrić a key role as his metronome in the centre of the park.
After taking the decision in his first season to move Ángel Di María back into midfield to allow Bale to join Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in attack, Madrid became an unstoppable force going forwards. They controlled the tempo and speed of games, something that endured in his second season at the helm. Ancelott's calmness helped the squad become more united, with players and supporters alike voicing their admiration for him on a number of occasions in recent weeks.
Trophy haul In addition to winning the 2014 UEFA Champions League, Ancelotti also led his side to Copa del Rey glory against Barcelona. In August, Madrid claimed their second UEFA Super Cup thanks to a 2-0 victory over Sevilla FC and in December lifted the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time.