Our European guru educates and enlightens
Is Carlo Ancelotti the perfect man to coach Chelsea? Obviously not.
The perfect man would need the cunning of Machiavelli, the intelligence of Socrates, the vision of Napoleon and the humility of the Dalai Lama.
Such paragons are hard to find, even in football.
But is he the best man available to do the job? Probably.
Guus Hiddink would have offered more continuity. The flaw in his CV is that he doesn’t want the job.
The Moyesiah has done a great job at Everton on reasonably limited resources – I say reasonably because he has spent £27 million on the Yak and Marouane Fellaini – but he has won no significant silverware and made little headway in Europe.
And do David Moyes’s Everton play football in the entertaining fashion of Real Madrid, a style that captivated Roman Abramovich when he saw the triumphant white angels at Old Trafford in 2003?
Even diehard Everton fans would have to admit they do not. Moyes is a very good manager but, compared to Ancelotti, his only edge is that he speaks better English.
The case against Ancelotti is that he is Italian, could be another Scolari and, in recent years, has presided over the decline of an ageing team in Milan.
The likes of Tony Cascarino are already predicting he won’t last the season.
Since none of us – not even Cascarino – can predict the future, let’s focus on the facts.
Under Abramovich, Chelsea has been famous for byzantine intrigues and rumours about the owner’s preference for certain players and a particular style of play.
In other words, the same situation Ancelotti who has managed at Milan since he replaced Fatih Terim in 2001 and found himself getting advice about team selection and tactics, through the media, and from Silvio Berlusconi.
No matter how baroque the boardroom politics at Chelsea are, they surely won’t surpass anything Ancelotti experienced with Juventus and Milan.
In the competition that matters most to Abramovich, Ancelotti has a better record than any coach in Europe.
In eight years, he has won the UEFA Champions League twice, lost a final on penalties and, in 2006, was deprived of a place in the final against Arsenal on the whim of a referee who disallowed a perfectly good Andriy Shevchenko goal.
Milan have been a team in transition of late and Ancelotti’s exit from the San Siro marks the end of a cycle for the Rossoneri.
But the decline is not entirely of Ancelotti’s making.
As Berlusconi tightened the purse strings, the Rossoneri have simply not competed with Inter in the transfer market.
Relatively inexpensive gambles on short-term solutions like Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Beckham were not, in such circumstances, so daft.
Refreshing the team by signing younger players, as the media demanded, would have cost Berlusconi millions he didn’t want to spend.
Ancelotti has bequeathed one exciting young talent to Leonardo. If Kaka does go, Alexandre Pato could be the player to build a new Rossoneri around.
Watching Ancelotti’s Milan in the flesh – in Athens in 2007 and in that summer’s Super Cup – I realised that they were a proper football team in the old-fashioned sense.
Players knew what their jobs were, did them and played for each other with a selflessness that is rare in the modern game.
The relentless focus on teamwork started with Arrigo Sacchi but Ancelotti has gloriously maintained that tradition.
Chelsea, by contrast, have only showed that kind of spirit in the first season under Mourinho and, more recently, under Guus Hiddink.
"Press, Marco. Like this"
Ancelotti’s alleged preference for old masters has been used in evidence against him because the consensus is that he has to rebuild an ageing squad.
But there are fewer Chelsea pensioners on the books than the media would have us believe: Alex, Jose Bosingwa, Joe Cole, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou, Michael Mancienne, John Obi Mikel and John Terry are all the right side of 30.
Besides, the brutal truth is that the Premier League is now so uncompetitive – Chelsea could have dropped another 19 points last season and still made the Champions League play-offs – that Ancelotti could, with Abramovich’s backing, afford to focus on Europe.
I’m not saying that Ancelotti will succeed. Appointing foreign coaches to run Premier League clubs is a hit (Mourinho) and miss (Josef Venglos) affair.
But Ancelotti has, unlike Scolari, vast experience coaching one of the best clubs in Europe. He understands Champions League football as well as anyone and has managed a side that, for the most part, has entertained and succeeded.
And, at 49, he’s the right age to take on the challenge.
Add all that up and you can see why, in the absence of Mr Perfect, Ancelotti seems a reasonable risk to Abramovich – if not to Tony Cascarino.
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Excellent but one thing: It was in fact Leonardo who bequethed Pato to Ancelotti, not the other way around, as Leonardo, being a former Milan technical director, has deep knowledge of the talents in Brazil and orchestrated Pato's move to Serie A.
Sorry to be pedantic.
Good article, and one thing is certain that Ancelotti is not the man. Coming from that pedestrian catenacci league in Italy it will be a big step up for him coming to the Premier League. A leauge where every game is tough and a league where you can't bribe your way to the top. As he was used to in Milan.
Another thing he can't bring with him is the Milan laboratory. No more injection with anti-depressives as is so frequently used in Italy.
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