Carlo Ancelotti paid the ultimate price for failing to deliver trophies at Chelsea last season, being sacked by the English club's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich just hours after a defeat on the final day.
French league leaders Paris St Germain have confirmed the appointment of Italian Carlo Ancelotti as their new coach on a two-and-a-half year contract as a replacement for Antoine Kombouare, who left the club earlier on Friday.
Ask anybody who's done it, and they'll tell you that sustaining success is much harder than achieving it in the first place. The great Hungarian coach Bela Guttmann refused ever to spend longer than three years at a club because he felt that after that he could no longer motivate players. It may be that in the modern world of soccer in which money begets money, success is easier to sustain than previously, at least on a domestic level. On a European scale what that means is a cluster of perhaps eight or so super powers constantly battling for the Champions League, which is surely the main reason no side has successfully defended the title since the AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi in 1990.
The thing about Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is that very few people have heard him speak. Fewer still have heard him speak in a language they understand. And when Abramovich does speak, it's never in public or to the media. As for the people he employs to actually run Chelsea -- primarily club Chairman Bruce Buck and Chief Executive Ron Gourlay -- they talk very little and say even less.
In moments of crisis, return to basics. Carlo Ancelotti wrote his dissertation for his coaching diploma on the 4-3-2-1, and it was to the Christmas tree he returned against Manchester United at Old Trafford. It might have been an inspired reversion -- and indeed it did address some of the problems Chelsea had suffered in the first leg -- but in the harsh light of a 2-1 defeat it may seem like a doomed manager scrabbling desperately for the comforts of the familiar.
"Chelsea won't go out against Copenhagen." So says Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, almost as if he think it won't be worth tuning in for this one. And in truth, FC Copenhagen was the team that everybody in the Champions League round of 16 wanted to be drawn against.
This season has encouraged a deal more introspection at the top of the table than we're used to seeing; the points totals alone tell you that the Premier League's traditional top three have not had it all their own way. Manchester United stuttered through eight draws away from home before finally surrendering its unbeaten run (and "Crap Invincibles" tag) at Wolves this month -- its road form hasn't ranked lower for 20 years. Arsenal has suffered shocking home defeats to West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. And then there's Chelsea.
When Carlo Ancelotti arrived at Chelsea in summer 2009, he started off playing 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond. That paired Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba as strike partners, with Frank Lampard tucked behind. It rapidly became apparent that Lampard is far better played with the ball in front of him than playing with his back to goal.
So Carlo Ancelotti is staying at Chelsea, for now at least, and with the club sitting top of the Premier League talk of crisis at Stamford Bridge feels slightly hysterical. Even if there was no substance to the reports -- strongly denied -- that Ancelotti was ready to quit on Sunday evening, though, something is going on behind the scenes, a lead that stood at five points three weeks ago has disappeared and the weakness of the squad's structure has been exposed.
Although a top-flight club has won the League Cup every year since 1991, when Sheffield Wednesday beat Manchester United (and even then it was the first lower league club to spring such a surprise since 1975), Premiership clubs habitually feign indifference to winning it. Even if some of them want to, getting caught celebrating winning it is a no-no; a tacit admission that triumph in English soccer's secondary domestic knockout competition is the height of your ambitions.
It was the oldest outfield player on the pitch who caught the eye in Sunday's Community Shield meeting between Manchester United and Chelsea, with soon-to-be 36-year-old Paul Scholes pulling the strings in midfield to help create the first two United goals. Scholes made his team debut almost 16 years ago, a few months after scoring in an FA Youth Cup final that also featured future United regulars Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt.
No team, in the Premier League era, has gone into the last day of the season top of the table and failed to win the title. That, and the fact that Chelsea had only to win a home game (it'd dropped just four points all season at Stamford Bridge), told you that it would end today as champions no matter what violence Manchester United did to Stoke's top-half ambitions at Old Trafford.
With the final day's Premier League action looming, it had seemed appropriate to engineer a way to have dramatic music boom out at you as you clicked on this page. But after Tottenham went and beat Manchester City on Wednesday to secure at least fourth place and a berth in the Champions League, bringing resolution to one suspenseful storyline, we didn't bother.
Hats off to Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, who surprised everyone -- perhaps even Didier Drogba himself -- by leaving his leading goal scorer on the bench against Manchester United and fielding the same starting 11 that had demolished Aston Villa the week before.
Chelsea visits Manchester United on Saturday for what is being billed as the critical match in this year's Premiership title race. And though both teams have at least one game to follow that will further test their mettle -- United has yet to visit neighbor City; Chelsea travels to Tottenham in two weeks and goes to Anfield to face Liverpool on the penultimate weekend of the season -- this is certainly the game that could put some daylight between the two.
What a difference a week makes. Twelve goals in two games has put Chelsea right on the shoulder of Manchester United -- its opponent this weekend -- and given the Blues the Premier League's healthiest goal difference.
On Tuesday, Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti made a somewhat bold pronouncement. "I like statistics and in think that, in the past, with 86 points every team won the title," he said at a press conference. "I think we need to get to 86 points to win the Premier League."
On the evening of Sat., June 12, 2010, we expect to be holed up in Castle Limey with the drawbridge raised and defenses at full in an attempt to halt a baying mob of SI.com journalists, distraught at the U.S. national team's defeat to our mighty Three Lions.
It seemed the 2008-09 season was barely seconds over before AC Milan turned just about everything on its head. Bad enough Captain Courageous, Paolo Maldini, has finally (at the age of almost 41) opted to retire, but next season, the Rossoneri will also be without two key figures of recent seasons: coach Carlo Ancelotti and Brazilian ace Kaká, who have left for Chelsea and Real Madrid, respectively.
Credit crunch and slow economy be damned, the soccer world is still spinning from the record-busting $131 million fee Real Madrid is on the verge of pumping into Manchester United's coffers for FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. That's on top of the $92 million the mysteriously loaded Spaniards already paid for last year's World Player of the Year, Kaká. But there's far more to come in the transfer market. This week, we run through the English Premier League looking at possible transfer targets, and who might be heading for the exit door.
If you suggest to AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti that his side is too old and that perhaps the club has failed to adequately strengthen itself with new signings this summer, he just smiles. In fact, as he sits at the boardroom table at Milan's lair, Milanello, he sounds very upbeat about the new season.