Carlo Ancelotti: I was asked to change Gareth Bale role at Real Madrid
Former Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said that Blancos club president Florentino Perez pressured him to change around his team and play Gareth Bale in a central attacking position.
Bale has generally played on the right side of a three-man attack since joining Madrid from Tottenham for €100 million in summer 2013, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema also part of the frontline.
Over time the Wales international, and his agent Jonathan Barnett, have spoken about a preference for a more central No. 10 position.
In his new book "Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches," being serialised in The Times, the Italian says that Perez had told him directly that both Bale and his agent were unhappy at being fielded on the wing, and he replied that he could not change around the whole shape of his team just to suit one player.
"One morning in March I received a phone call from Madrid's general director [Jose Angel Sanchez] saying that the president wanted to speak with me at the end of training that day," Ancelotti wrote. "This was very unusual. When I visited the president, he told me that Bale's agent had been to his office to speak about Bale's 'situation.'"
"In January, Bale's agent had been saying things and perhaps felt his position was strong because he had already spoken with the president. Now he was telling the president that Bale was unhappy in his position.
"He wanted to play more centrally. Bale had fantastic world-class qualities and all that I was trying to do was help him understand his core strengths so he could fulfil his potential and by the way, that I was more qualified than his agent or the president to help him with that. I told the president that I would speak with Bale myself the next day, which I did after training.
"I told him that I knew that his agent had spoken to the president and asked him why he didn't come to speak directly with me about what he wanted. He said 'Yes, OK, no problem.'
"I explained to him what I had said to the president, how it was impossible for me to change the system as it wasn't just one position, it was the whole team. I was clear with him. I told him that we could try some things in the summer, next year's preseason, to change his position, but not now."
After Ancelotti was fired at the end of the 2014-15 campaign, successor Rafa Benitez tried a new 4-2-3-1 shape with Bale as the central playmaker. This experiment worked well for the Welshman, but the team's general performances declined.
Current coach Zinedine Zidane has since returned to the 4-3-3 Ancelotti used, coinciding with an improvement in results as Madrid pushed Barcelona all the way in the title race, and qualified for the Champions League final where they face Atletico Madrid on May 28.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan