All Carlo Ancelotti has to do is integrate Kaka into the Chelsea team – provided he joins this summer – and win the Premier League and the Champions League. Simple really, but then no one ever said that working for Roman Abramovich was supposed to be easy.
The new Chelsea manager was appointed yesterday just 12 days short of the first anniversary of Luiz Felipe Scolari's doomed appointment at Chelsea. Like Scolari did last year, Ancelotti will take the reins on 1 July and his first game will be 18 days later on tour in America against the Seattle Sounders. By then, Chelsea hope to have reunited Ancelotti with the Milan playmaker Kaka and moved out some of the squad's fringe players.
Ancelotti's first ever English language interview on Chelsea TV last night could not be described as offering the most insightful glimpse into the new Chelsea manager's way of working, but he did suggest that he would be pragmatic in devising a way of playing. At Milan he nearly always played his trademark "Christmas tree" formation of 4-3-2-1. At Chelsea, he said he would assess the squad first: "First you have to know the characteristics of the players," he said, "and after you can put a system for the players."
There will also have to be a clear-out of players whose time at the club has naturally come to an end. The most senior of those is Ricardo Carvalho, who has lost his place in the team to Alex and would still represent a valuable asset in the transfer market. Deco has disappeared from view and is certain to leave, while Juliano Belletti, Paulo Ferreira and Mineiro are also obvious candidates. Andrei Shevchenko and Claudio Pizarro are on long-term loans and the club has no intention of bringing them back.
It will be intriguing to see whether Ancelotti tinkers with the basic principles of the 4-1-4-1 formation that was imposed on the club by his predecessor and bête noire Jose Mourinho. Even Guus Hiddink's 4-3-3 system was essentially just a variation on that way of playing with a single holding midfielder deployed to shield the back four and two wingers breaking forward to support Didier Drogba.
For all the great players that Ancelotti has managed, he still cites the best as being Zinedine Zidane, whom he coached during two years at Juventus. Yesterday the new Chelsea manager said that he was prepared to adapt the team to accommodate outstanding talent. "I don't change it every year, but I change it depending on the characteristic of the players," he said "For example at Juventus there was Zidane, he was an offensive midfielder and I built the team around Zidane."
Should Abramovich be successful in signing Kaka, it is tempting to imagine just how Ancelotti would play the Brazilian within his team. Chelsea's style, as demonstrated on Saturday in the FA Cup final at Everton, has varied little over the last five years. They get the ball forward quickly, either to Drogba or their wingers, and they attack with power and pace. In contrast, in Ancelotti's 4-3-2-1 Milan formation, Kaka operated as one of two players behind a central striker, similar to the role that Wayne Rooney plays for England alongside Steven Gerrard behind either Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch.
Kaka has played as one of a pair with Clarence Seedorf, in the 2007-08 season or alongside Ronaldinho in the season just finished. That system would require a major change of emphasis at Chelsea although, at Juventus, Ancelotti played a simple 4-4-2 system.
As usual, the players upon whom Ancelotti will have to rely will be those who were crucial to his predecessors too: Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech and Drogba. That never seems to change at Chelsea. However, as well as attempting to sign Kaka, Abramovich also wants to add to the squad's base of English players by securing Glen Johnson from Portsmouth and goalkeeper Ross Turnbull from Middlesbrough. The latter is not an obvious choice for Chelsea, but has been scouted by the club for some time.
Abramovich's new-found faith in English talent is practical as well – the creeping acceptance in the Premier League that quotas on home-grown players will eventually be introduced in some form dictates that he needs to respond. Last season, Chelsea were unable to name a full squad of 25 A-list players in the Champions League because they did not have enough to meet the "4+4" quota of four players developed by the club and four developed within other English clubs.
Ancelotti's English is halting at best and you could not help but agree with him when he said that he found it hard speaking about his "philosophy" in English. "I like to be close with the players, close with the company [the club]. I like to speak with people. I believe in teamwork. It's the most important thing to create a group that work together to build a dream. For me this is the most important thing.
"The players and the company need to have strong organisation, very strong discipline, to have the right motivation. I hope to do this together because this is the right way to achieve success. For me the Champions League is a beautiful sensation [sic] because when I played I won it two times in 1989 and 1990. It was a fantastic moment. The same as when I was a coach in Milan in 2003 and 2007. The Champions League is the best competition in the world and everyone wants to win it. Chelsea has a great record, five semi-finals in six years is a beautiful score, so great, but now we need to win, and I hope this will happen."
Fortunately for him, his assistant in waiting Filippo Galli speaks impeccable English and Ray Wilkins has been refreshing the Italian that he learnt in that country as a player. Every major Chelsea managerial appointment by Abramovich – Mourinho, Scolari and now Ancelotti – has been epochal but only one has actually worked out. Ancelotti starts with the worst grasp of English of all three, but if he can sign Kaka that would be a long way to making the difference between success and failure.
Two who could move to the Bridge...
Glen Johnson (Portsmouth)
Age 24 Position Right-back Value £10m
Enjoyed a fine season, adding to his 13 England caps. Was Abramovich's first signing at Chelsea in 2003 before a £4m move to Portsmouth two summers ago.
Ross Turnbull (Middlesbrough)
Age 24 Position Goalkeeper
Value Free, contract expires this summer
Signed professional contract at Boro in 2002 but has gone out on loan six times.
Played 29 games for the Riverside club.
... and four on their way out
DECO Midfielder disappeared from view
RICARDO CARVALHO Has lost place
PAULO FERREIRA Peripheral figure
JULIANO BELLETTI Failed to settleReuse content