DUBAI // Under a beating sun and a watchful eye, Carlo Ancelotti took charge of his first training session as coach of Paris Saint-Germain yesterday, ahead of tomorrow night's exhibition match against AC Milan, the club with whom he won the European Cup four times combined as a player and manager.
Having decamped to Doha, the PSG players were put through their paces by the Italian in front of the French league leaders' Qatari president, Nasser Al Khelaifi, and Leonardo, the Parisian club's Brazilian sporting director. The team fly to Dubai today for the Dubai Football Challenge at Al Ahli's Rashid Stadium.
AC Milan arrived in the emirate last week for a week-long warm-weather camp and have been holding twice-daily training sessions.
Both teams have spoken of the importance of the camps in regards to maintaining fitness and alertness over the winter break, but for Ancelotti, the importance goes beyond that.
At age 52, he is making his return to football after being dismissed by Chelsea in May last year, and will need to hit the ground running. He succeeds Antoine Kombouare, who was released by PSG last week despite taking the Paris club to the summit of Ligue 1.
Clarence Seedorf, the Milan midfielder who joined the club one season after Ancelotti took the reins at the San Siro in 2001, said there is no doubting PSG have acquired a quality manager. He hopes his former coach is shown support.
"What you get with Ancelotti is guaranteed," Seedorf said.
"He has shown his worth over the years, and I hope he is received well because it is difficult to enter a new environment when there is already some polemics about the previous coach who was doing great and had taken them top of the table. I hope he does not suffer from that and I am sure he will do great."
Speaking from Doha via video link-up, Ancelotti said he was looking forward to facing his old team, with whom he won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007.
"It is a little bit strange and I will be excited, of course, as I have good memories from my time at Milan," he said. "I know a lot of the staff and players and it will be a good game, I'm sure. For me, it's very important because then I can understand better the quality of the players, get to know them better, and this is important for us to improve."
His first competitive match leading PSG is on Saturday in a French Cup tie with Locmine, the Brittany-based amateur side.
Mamadou Sakho, the PSG defender, said: "Milan is my favourite team and I follow them every week. We know they are waiting for us in Dubai and we know they are a great team. It's good to test ourselves against them."
The match organisers have advised spectators to arrive at Rashid Stadium tomorrow well ahead of the 7.30pm kick-off.