Ashley Cole will not be leaving Chelsea and Fernando Torres will not be joining them, according to the west London club's manager. After watching his side wrap up a straightforward 1-0 victory in a low-key friendly at Crystal Palace, Carlo Ancelotti tried to put an end to rumours about Cole that stemmed from the full-back's message to friends before he headed to South Africa for a disappointing World Cup suggesting that he "hated England" and wanted to leave.
But Ancelotti insists that the 29-year-old will not be linking up again with Jose Mourinho, the man who took him from Arsenal to Chelsea and who is now settling in at Real Madrid. "I don't need to speak with him [Cole] and he doesn't need to speak to me. He's a Chelsea player and had a fantastic season last season," the manager said. "He will be an important player for us next season, 100 per cent."
Liverpool's failure to qualify for the Champions' League sparked speculation that Torres would be moving on, with Chelsea thought to be preparing a £50 million bid for the Spain striker.
Barcelona and Manchester City are also keeping tabs on Torres, who has scored 56 goals in 79 Premier League games for the Reds, but Ancelotti said: "Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka come back in the next days, and we also have Daniel Sturridge – so I don't think we need other strikers. I'm happy because this team won the Premier League and FA Cup. I don't know what will happen until the end of the [transfer] market, but I'm happy to have this squad at the moment."
Torres suffered a thigh pull during the World Cup final, but will be fully fit within a month.
Chelsea, who face Manchester United in the Community Shield at Wembley on 8 August, enjoyed a treble fitness boost at Crystal Palace, where at least 10 of the Double winners' big names were missing. England's World Cup trio John Terry, Frank Lampard and Cole were absent, as were Drogba, Anelka, Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou.
But Michael Essien, who had not pulled on a Blues shirt since December, made a man-of-the-match return from his six-month layoff after a knee ligament injury suffered with Ghana during the African Cup of Nations in January. The midfielder started and played for 61 minutes, scoring with his final kick.
Essien, who had earlier hit the bar, played a smart one-two with Joshua McEachran before sweeping the ball into the bottom-left corner from 18 yards.
Ancelotti said: "It was important Essien returned. He played very well and is a fantastic player. We missed him last season and hope he can do the best for us this season."
Nigeria's John Obi Mikel, who like Essien missed the World Cup, made a successful return after minor knee surgery in May. He was less effective than Essien, but a welcome sight for Ancelotti nevertheless.
The giant centre-back Alex also completed his return from summer knee surgery, starting and impressing in defence for just over an hour.
One Chelsea player not present was Yossi Benayoun. Signed from Liverpool for £5.5m to replace the released Joe Cole, the Israeli playmaker has a slight groin niggle and must wait until Friday's friendly at Ajax to make his Blues debut.
One headache for Ancelotti, who has pledged to fast-track his youngsters into the first team, was the sloppy performance of his young strikers Sturridge and Franco Di Santo. Neither impressed against a makeshift Crystal Palace side.
The 21,345 crowd was a money- spinner for Palace, who were deducted 10 points last season after falling into administration, before being saved from liquidation by the CPFC 2010 consortium in June and only just avoiding relegation to League One.
George Burley, their new manager, said: "It was great of Chelsea to come down, and almost a full house."