James Lawton: Ancelotti's urbane competence mocks all our initial doubts - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

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
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week