James Lawton: Ancelotti's urbane competence mocks all our initial doubts

It is hard to believe there has ever been a front-rank football man with such little edge as this son of a tiny farm town in Emilia-Romagna

As the pressure begins to mount, Carlo Ancelotti might just break into a Fergie rant or a Wenger wobble or even say something hinting at one of the funny cigarettes some speculate Rafa Benitez has recently been inhaling.

It seems increasingly unlikely, though, he will ever do any such thing.

Indeed as Chelsea roll their perfect record into the sudden-death stage of the Champions League the possibility seems as remote as his ever sharing Sam Allardyce's delusion that it is only through lack of opportunity he has not already proved himself a football re-incarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte.

This is despite the fact that he could obviously make a somewhat superior case with a haul of four Serie A titles, four European Cups, and an English Double (at his first attempt) as a player and a coach.

Certainly it is hard to believe there has ever been a front-rank football man with such little edge and attitude, someone more attuned to the fact that his greatest success is unlikely to make the earth move or his worst failure cost a single life, as this 51-year-old son of the little farm town of Reggiolo in Emilia-Romagna.

Watching him so effortlessly, and so often drolly, succeed the formidable Guus Hiddink, has not only been an education in the practicalities of football management but also style and that kind of bone-deep composure that is born to just a few men.

Additionally, it has been somewhat shaming, to say the least, for those of us who sniffed at his appointment and suggested that Chelsea might do as well with the passionate, largely untested Gianfranco Zola – because ultimately did not Roman Abramovich want only a high-profile yes-man, someone with safe enough hands to comfortably field the orders coming down from the executive suite?

Ancelotti has quietly mocked such presumptions. He has proved himself his own man in every situation and perhaps one of the most revealing came at Wigan more than a year ago, when there was much wringing of hands after Chelsea, shockingly off their game, suffered a humiliating ambush. "Such things will always happen in football," he said. "What you have to do is go back to work, learn from it. That is the first thing you do. The last thing is to make a drama of it."

It was harder work though, he admits, a little later when Jose Mourinho brought Internazionale to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League and outplayed Chelsea. Ancelotti said it was a wound that had to be healed.

Now, he is candid about the need to carry Chelsea to victory in the Wembley final of the greatest club tournament in the world. "It is a big opportunity we have this season," he said, "and yes, it is a priority."

Yesterday, Ancelotti's voice was as relaxed and philosophical as ever after the workmanlike demolition of Spartak Moscow, and this was so even when it was borne by the Chelsea Magazine.

The headline was bracing enough: "Coach England, why not?" The quotes were pure Ancelotti; you could hear him reflecting over a fine dinner and an agreeable digestive. "I have always said I wouldn't mind doing the national team job," he said, "and not just Italy [for whom he played 26 times and in two World Cups] but Ivory Coast, England... why not?"

Why not, indeed, when you have done almost everything it is possible for a football man to do; when you have played alongside Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi – and left men like Silvio Berlusconi and Abramovich aware that their money can, in your case, buy only knowledge and self-belief.

Go for Zola, did we say? Surely not.

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn