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Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti: Whoever defines me as too soft angers me

Carlo Ancelotti has expressed his anger at critics who suggest he is "too soft" on his Real Madrid players, insisting he has a good relationship with his squad.

Ancelotti won both the Champions League and Copa del Rey last season with Real, but a recent slump in form has led to speculation that the Italian coach could be sacked.

Club president Florentino Perez told a news conference on Friday that Ancelotti will remain as the club's manager "whatever happens" in the final months of this season, though the coach told La Gazzetta dello Sport that his fate rests in the hands of his players.

"The relationship with the players is what's most important, it matters a lot more than the one with the president," AS quotes him as saying. "If there is no good feeling with the guys, you are a dead man. Someone calls it friendship; I simply call it respect, although I like to laugh and joke with them.

"The intelligent people know when it's time to get serious. Whoever defines me as 'too soft' angers me, because it is not true."

Real have been displaced at the top of La Liga by rivals Barcelona after picking up just one point from the last two games, while they suffered a 4-3 home Champions League round-of-16 second-leg defeat to Schalke on Tuesday.

Los Blancos still progressed to the quarterfinals 5-4 on aggregate, though the Bernabeu crowd jeered, whistled, and waved symbolic white handkerchiefs to call for the coach's head.

Despite the Spanish press calling the result a "total disaster," Ancelotti says that consistency is key to keeping Real's "Galactico" players on board.

"My history helps me from the start at a club," he said. "There is always great respect for what I have done, but then I am tested with the daily relationship with the group. I have to be consistent from the beginning to the end."

Ancelotti confirmed that Pepe is staying at the Bernabeu despite being linked with a move to England in recent months, saying: "I have not used any strategy. He asked to leave because in Spain they considered him bad and dirty. I told him that he was going to stay, that I counted on him."

The Italian coach reiterated that he would one day like to lead the Azzurri national side, adding: "Yes, I would like to manage it one day. But first I must overcome the desire to coach every day. Italy reach a World Cup final every 12 years and they win one every 24. So, everything's ready for 2030."