x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ancelotti has Europe in his sights

As Chelsea unveiled Carlo Ancelotti as their new coach yesterday, it was no surprise that the Champions League dominated his thoughts.

The departing AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, left, is embraced by outgoing captain Paolo Maldini after their final match of the season against Fiorentina in Florence. It was the last game at the club for both of them.
The departing AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, left, is embraced by outgoing captain Paolo Maldini after their final match of the season against Fiorentina in Florence. It was the last game at the club for both of them.

As Chelsea unveiled Carlo Ancelotti as their new coach yesterday, it was no surprise that the Champions League dominated his thoughts. Club football's biggest prize, it is the trophy that the team's owner Roman Abramovich craves the most.

Enter Ancelotti, a man who has won the trophy four times, twice as a player and twice as a coach with AC Milan. He called time on his eight-year reign at the Italian club to pursue a new, and exacting, challenge at Stamford Bridge. And Ancelotti, 49, immediately outlined his desire to bring Champions League success to the club. "There will be the same pressure because Chelsea are a great team in Europe," he said. "They want to win all the competitions. The Champions League, for me, is the best competition in the world.

"When I played I won it two times, it was a fantastic moment, and the same thing when I was a coach in Milan. "Chelsea have a great record, five semi-finals in six years is a beautiful score, but now we have to, need to, win. For me, the Champions League is a beautiful sensation." Ancelotti knows he will be coming to a Chelsea side with great expectations and even greater demands. The FA Cup success on Saturday ended their two-year trophy drought and the past failures of Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari as coaches.

Guus Hiddink lifted them when they most needed it during his temporary spell in charge, but as he bade farewell and returned to Russia, Ancelotti arrived with aplomb. He has vast experience in club football, winning the Serie A championships as a player and coach with Roma and Milan, and worked with big names, such as Zinedine Zidane, Kaka and more recently David Beckham. Chelsea have given him a three-year contract, saying he was the outstanding candidate for the job.Ancelotti is determined to prove himself in the Premier League and is already learning the language to help him settle quickly.

"For me it [English] is not easy, but I want to learn and I want to improve," he added, conducting his first interview with the club's television channel in English. "I have the time and when we start the season I will speak well. It is important for me to speak with the players, the team, the assistant and all the operators that will work with me. Now I think it is the right moment for a new challenge and I want to put all my energy for Chelsea.

"Milan for me was a great experience. Now I think it is time to change and Chelsea for me was a great opportunity, a great team." His appointment has been greeted with enthusiasm by Chelsea supporters. Ancelotti's Milan team played the classy football they want in west London, and potential arrivals in Franck Ribery, David Villa and Yuri Zhirkov whet the appetite. There were tears in the Milan dressing room when he announced his departure. Former Milan player Leonardo has already been appointed as Ancelotti's replacement and he paid tribute to the departing manager. "Yesterday [Sunday] was an extraordinary day, to see all the players crying," he said. "Carlo is the man who has pushed me the most to take on this challenge.

"I have had a very friendly relationship with Carlo all this time and he has not only wished me good luck and given me a lot of adv-ice, but he has inspired me a lot." Sunderland also stepped up their bid for a new manager to replace Ricky Sbragia with Steve Bruce expected to be named in the Wearside hot seat. With a compensation package agreed with Wigan, he was finalising personal terms last night.

Wigan have targeted Roberto Martinez as Bruce's replacement, but Scottish giants Celtic have made an approach for the Spaniard, who has established a fine reputation at Swansea, as have Real Sociedad from his homeland. akhan@thenational.ae