Within 10 minutes of Chelsea's flight to Milan yesterday morning, Carlo Ancelotti nodded off. A brief chat with journalists on the plane had to be postponed while the Chelsea manager enjoyed a quick 40 winks. If Ancelotti was nervous about returning to the city where he made his name, to face his managerial nemesis, he certainly was not showing it. Or perhaps he had been losing sleep about coming up against Jose Mourinho again.
Ancelotti is an affable fellow. However, one man he does not get on with is Mourinho, the handsome, acidic, successful manager of Internazionale who won back-to-back titles at Chelsea. "We are not friends," Ancelotti said recently. Yesterday, he batted away questions about Mourinho: "I am not interested in Mourinho. I am only interested in preparing my team well to play against Inter. Only this."
Mourinho for his part accused Ancelotti of being part of a "clan" of Italian managers that has conspired against him since he arrived in June 2008. Mourinho has a long-running feud with Ancelotti, who was manager of Milan for eight years, as well as Luciano Spalletti, the former Roma manager, and Claudio Ranieri, who was at Juventus and is now at Roma.
Ancelotti had earlier told an Italian newspaper that he believed a majority of Italians would be cheering for the English outfit, rather than Mourinho's Nerazzurri, prompting Mourinho yesterday to theatrically kiss the club badge on the body-warmer he was wearing and declare: "Only Inter matters". These are two men who cannot stand the sight of each other, and fate has brought them together again for two ties in the Champions League that will see one emerge triumphant, the other forced to swallow a sizeable chunk of humble pie.
The pair traded insults last season in Serie A, when Ancelotti was in charge at Internazionale's great rivals Milan. The two clubs each won one game against the other last season, and off the pitch the managers similarly achieved a score draw.
Mourinho has little regard for the country boy Ancelotti, calling him "dumb" and reminding him how he lost the 2005 Champions League final to Liverpool despite being 3-0 up at halftime. Ancelotti hit back at his abrasive rival, ridiculing his failure to make the grade as a player and referring to Jose as "His Mourinhity" in his autobiography. Ancelotti once said: "If Mourinho is Jesus, then I am certainly not one of his apostles."
In recent days, Mourinho has been revelling in the mischief he can cause in the build-up to this tie. The abrasive Mourinho likes to refer to Ancelotti's side as "my Chelsea" and he has a point as tonight's likely Chelsea line-up contains eight players who were under his charge, and that is not including Michael Essien and Ashley Cole who are injured. But the side that won the title in 2005 contained at least eight players recruited by his predecessor Claudio Ranieri, and there was no mention of the Italian's contribution when Mourinho took the plaudits for leading Chelsea to their first title in 50 years.
Similarly, Mourinho has made no mention of the dud players he bought with Roman Abramovich's money, such as Khalid Boulahrouz for £6m, Mateja Kezman for £5m, and that ultimate waste of money, Andrei Shevchenko for £31m.
Mourinho certainly deserves his reputation as the game's ultimate winner. He won two titles, the Uefa Cup and the Champions League in his two-and-a-half seasons at Porto; five major trophies in just over three seasons at Chelsea, including two Premier League titles; and the Scudetto in his first season in charge at Inter.
Yet despite his reputation for winning, Mourinho's record in the Champions League in his three years at Stamford Bridge was nothing to crow about. His team made it to two semi-finals and lost them both to Liverpool. In all 32 group and knock-out matches under Mourinho's leadership, Chelsea won only half of them.
Mourinho's desire to hog the spotlight has allowed the more diplomatic Ancelotti to avoid excessive attention this week, with Chelsea trying to cope with the sleazy allegations that have been levelled at Ashley Cole and John Terry. The focus is on Mourinho ahead of this contest against his former club. However, if anything, the pressure is greater on Ancelotti, who is the third manager to move into Jose's old office since the combative Portuguese was relieved of his duties in September 2007.
Ancelotti was Abramovich's choice last summer largely because of his record of leading Milan to two victories in the Champions League, in 2003 and 2007. Europe's premier prize is the only one to evade Abramovich's grasp, and the only one that remained out of reach even to Mourinho during his three and a bit eventful seasons at Stamford Bridge. To put it baldly, Ancelotti has to succeed where Mourinho failed.
"I don't think the expectations are too big at Chelsea," Ancelotti said yesterday, accepting his task of leading the club to victory in Europe. "Of course, we would like to win the Champions League." Earlier this season he said the minimum requirement was to reach the final.
Ancelotti has the edge on Mourinho when it comes to winning the Champions League, with two victories to the Portuguese coach's solitary win in 2004. In Mourinho's own words it is the ultimate prize. He once said: "It is the biggest thing you can win in club football. It's like a drug. If you have won it once you crave to win it again."
Chelsea have reached the semi-finals five times in the six years of the Abramovich era, but have yet to close the deal and take the major prize. Internazionale in contrast have been knocked out by English clubs in the past two seasons – Manchester United beat them 2-0 on aggregate last year and Liverpool won 3-0 the year before. If Chelsea manage to make it a hat-trick for English sides, then Ancelotti will have claimed a very "special" scalp indeed and will have justified the faith shown in him by Abramovich. Victory tonight in his old home, San Siro, and Ancelotti will be able to sleep easily on the flight home.
'My Chelsea': But can Mourinho really take the credit?
* In the 2004-05 Chelsea side that won the title key players included seven who Mourinho inherited: John Terry, Wayne Bridge, Glen Johnson, Claude Makelele, Damien Duff, Frank Lampard, Eidur Gudjohnsen. Two more arrived in the summer Mourinho was appointed, but deals were agreed long before his arrival: Petr Cech, Arjen Robben. Two he brought in: Ricardo Carvalho, Didier Drogba.
* And he forgets this team of duds Chelsea spent millions on when he was in charge: Henrique Hilario, Jiri Jarosik, Tal Ben Haim, Khalid Boulahrouz, Asier del Horno, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Maniche, Tiago, Steve Sidwell, Andrei Shevchenko, Mateja Kezman.Reuse content