Ancelotti backs Terry to emulate Maldini's longevity

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Carlo Ancelotti last night insisted his Chelsea captain John Terry can copy Paolo Maldini and play top-level football in his 40s.

The former Milan defender retired at the end of last season, one month short of his 41st birthday, after a glittering career with the Serie A side that spanned a quarter of a century and included five European Cup and Champions League titles, two under the guidance of Ancelotti.

Terry, 28, appears an unlikely candidate to match Maldini's remarkable longevity. The England centre-half might share the Italian's status as a one-club man and terrace idol, but while Maldini's injury record was virtually unblemished, Terry has been plagued by back problems, not helped by his combative playing style.

But if there is one manager who could help extend Terry's career by another decade or more, it is Ancelotti. His success at Milan was based on a core of veteran players, including Maldini, who were kept in peak condition by the expertise of Bruno Demichelis, the brains behind the so-called "Milan Lab". Demichelis joined Ancelotti in west London during the summer and the manager now expects Terry to enjoy similar durability.

"The careers of Maldini and that of John Terry are very close in comparison," Ancelotti said. "Not just in terms of their defensive play, which is very good, but in terms of their professionalism. Like Maldini at AC Milan, Terry was born in this club and went through the academy. And he can play until he is 40. He has no physical problems and a lot of passion, which is the most important thing. With the preparation and the physical training and the prevention, the age of the players will improve. When I played, 33 or 34 was the end. Now players can play at 36 or 37 without a problem."

Chelsea, who face Aston Villa today, last night formally appealed the 12-month transfer ban handed to them by Fifa for allegedly poaching the French teenager Gaël Kakuta from Lens. The club now has 10 days to submit their evidence to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.