Chelsea's manager-in-waiting Carlo Ancelotti yesterday laid open the details of his secret talks with Roman Abramovich in remarkable detail in a move that could yet scupper the deal to bring the Italian to Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti even revealed that the Russian billionaire had complained to him: "My Chelsea team has no personality."
In an extraordinary act of disclosure, the Milan manager chose yesterday to release his autobiography Preferisco La Coppa in which he devotes two chapters to revealing the details of Abramovich's approaches to him, including the occasions the Russian met him in secret in Geneva last summer and then at an exclusive Paris hotel.
Asked at the launch of the book in Rome whether he would be joining Chelsea next week, Ancelotti said: "If the Milan directors want me to stay, then I will stay." Having admitted in his book that he had lied to journalists in the past when it suited him, Ancelotti was asked whether he was lying on this occasion, too. "That depends," was his reply.
The depth of the detail disclosed by Ancelotti casts doubt on whether he will ever actually take the Chelsea job. He is due to make an announcement next Monday, by which time he hopes that Milan will have qualified for the Champions League for next season. Asked whether he felt he had compromised Abramovich, Ancelotti said: "I don't think I was too open. I can only talk in the book about people I have met. Abramovich was very generous, he likes football very much. He was very passionate, he wants to improve his knowledge of the game. It was a beautiful experience."
The book also details how much Ancelotti dislikes Jose Mourinho, his opposite number at Internazionale, whom he refers to as "His Mourinhity". In the photo section of the book he publishes all his managerial contracts at Parma, Juventus and Milan, disclosing his multimillion salaries.
Ancelotti describes being picked up by a driver in Paris in May 2008 to meet Abramovich. "I was like 007 sat behind a driver with the face of a killer. More than a taxi this is like a time machine, taking me from Milanello [the club's training ground] to Stamford Bridge. I'm in Paris and I'm going to Roman Abramovich, the rich owner of Chelsea who is looking for a new manager. Nobody knows this but we've already seen each other once, a couple of weeks ago in a big hotel in Geneva, just outside the city centre. Abramovich came after me. That was a good sign but I couldn't believe how many bodyguards he had. They accompanied me to meet the 'Big Chief' and Peter Kenyon [Chelsea chief executive].
"Abramovich wasn't the monster the papers painted him to be. The first thing I noticed was his timidity. The second was his great knowledge of football. The third was his hunger. He said: 'Dear Ancelotti, I want to win everything. Everything.' That reminded me of another president [Silvio Berlusconi at Milan]. He made a great impression. An hour flew by during which we never talked about money."
At the subsequent meeting in Paris, Ancelotti described how he panicked when he noticed the football agent Federico Pastorello in the lobby. Then he bumped into another manager, whom he did not name but is understood to be Roma's Luciano Spalletti. Ancelotti wrote: "I said to him 'What are you doing here?' This place is starting to make sense, I feel like I am in a supermarket. Everyone here to talk to Abramovich. Maybe we're his shopping list."
On the Paris meeting, Ancelotti wrote: "I find I can chat easily with Abramovich. He doesn't make me feel uncomfortable, not even when he says with a low voice: 'We've just lost the Champions League final [May 2008], and the Premier League, I'm certainly not satisfied. My Chelsea team don't have a personality. My ambition is to win every competition but at the moment I don't even recognise my team.'"
Ancelotti said that he told Abramovich that he needed "more quality in the middle of the pitch". He continued: "I gave him two names – Franck Ribéry and Xabi Alonso – as players that would have made him very happy. He thought of a third name, that of Andrei Shevchenko, who you could see was close to his heart. Abramovich said: 'I can't understand why he's not playing, because since we brought him to England he's not the real Sheva, he's in difficulties'."
Shortly after his meeting in Paris, which Ancelotti believed was secret, he said that he was called by Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani who began the conversation "How's Paris? How did your elopement go?" At that time, Ancelotti, who had failed to qualify for the previous Champions League, said that he did not want to join Chelsea and instead Abramovich gave the job to Luiz Felipe Scolari.
However, after the sacking of Scolari in February, Ancelotti confirmed that he had been approached to take over at the end of the season and said that at one point he was so sure he was going he had started to think of himself as Chelsea manager. He said he had watched DVDs of Chelsea in recent months to prepare himself. "I was thinking of Chelsea and I confess that at certain points in 2008/09, I watched my DVDs of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba," he said. "I was already the coach on paper. I thought: 'There are worse things in life than working with Abramovich'. Anyway, the worst for Abramovich had already been and gone. He had already worked with 'His Mourinhity', Jose Mourinho."
Nevertheless, Ancelotti admitted that in recent weeks he has been less sure that he will leave. Galliani, who is understood to be at odds with owner Berlusconi, wants him to stay. When Ancelotti told Galliani about the "indecent offer" from Chelsea, the club's vice-president was adamant he should stay and it is now by no means certain that he will join Chelsea.
Ancelotti admitted that he had been taking English lessons but refused to say a single word in English during his entire press conference. Milan play Fiorentina on Sunday and they have to win to be sure of a Champions League place next season. Chelsea await his decision but any attempts to keep this appointment as secretive as Scolari's have been blown out of the water by Ancelotti himself.
Arch, funny, outspoken... this memoir reveals rare wit and wisdom
With his amusing revelations about Roman Abramovich's inner circle, especially the Russian billionaire's depressive take on his malfunctioning Chelsea team, Carlo Ancelotti has demonstrated that he is no Milan coaching clone. His insights into Chelsea in his autobiography, detailed in The Independent today, show that he is a lively character who would be an interesting addition to the Premier League.
Ancelotti's book Preferisco La Coppa is a no-holds-barred take on what it is like to be pursued by Abramovich with all the riches at his disposal. It was not written for personal profit but to raise funds for his friend Stefano Borgonovo, a former Italy international who is now suffering from the debilitating illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Borgonovo, 45, is in a serious condition but he has been supported throughout by Ancelotti, who recently visited him in hospital with David Beckham.
Even the title of the book is a play on words. It translates as "I prefer trophies" but the "Coppa" could also refer to a certain type of ham from Ancelotti's native Parma that he is known to prefer. "Coppa" is the ham synonymous with working-class dining tables and the secondary title of the book also reflects Ancelotti's humble background: "Life, football matches and miracles of a normal world-class footballer".
Ancelotti plays up to one of his physical peculiarities in the cover shot – his left eyebrow is almost permanently arched when he talks, as it was at yesterday's press conference in Rome. He joked that he had been learning English for three years but was still terrible at speaking it. "When I ask Beckham why, he is very polite," Ancelotti said. "He says it is obviously the teacher's fault."
The Milan coach was not quite as kind about Jose Mourinho. Describing in his book a moment when he turns on his television and sees the former Chelsea coach, he wrote: "We looked up and there was 'His Mourinhity' comparing himself to Jesus. I thought, 'Forgive him his sins, he knows not what he is talking about'."
Ancelotti even gave a reading from his book, a passage detailing a complex practical joke played by the Milan squad on French midfielder Mathieu Flamini which ended with the former Arsenal man shouting – unknowingly – in Italian "I want to give everyone here a blowjob".
Ancelotti's daughter, Katya, has already worked at Chelsea this season at the club's television station Chelsea TV. When Ancelotti arrived yesterday he made great play of greeting the Gazzetta dello Sport's highly respected, long-serving London correspondent Giancarlo Galavotti. That is normally a pretty good sign that an Italian football man is on his way to England.