Thursday 23 March 2017

Ancelotti pays heavy price for Blues 'failure'

Everton 1
Chelsea 0

Rory Smith

Carlo Ancelotti wore black. Black tie, black shirt, black suit. It was Roman Abramovich, though, who was wearing the black cap.

Wherever he was watching, Chelsea's owner was certain this would not be 'Survival Sunday' for his manager. Judgment Day was long since over. Dressed in mourning suit, Ancelotti awaited his sentence. An hour after he left Goodison Park, it was passed and he was sacked.

Like Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari before him, he paid the price for failing to win either the Champions League or the Premier League, the twin obsessions which loom in Abramovich's mind, which fever his dreams.

Surrender

But Ancelotti, a fundamentally decent man, deserved better than this. Even after a limp surrender to Everton, where his team -- clad in black, too, witnesses to their manager's demise -- were guilty of making Jermaine Beckford look like George Weah as he scored a remarkable winning goal, he deserved better.

He did not deserve to be paraded in front of the press as the gun was being loaded. "I do not have to explain anything to the club about my job," he said after the game. Click. "Now the season is over, the club can judge my job over the last two years and then make a decision." Click. "I have to wait and see what happens. I am on holiday now. I just do not know how long it will last." Bang.

They were his last words as Chelsea manager. The brutal swiftness of the sacking -- it was reminiscent of West Ham's treatment of Avram Grant last Sunday -- was not unexpected by sources close to both Ancelotti and Abramovich, even if it appeared to take club officials by surprise.

At 7.10pm last night supporters, who subscribe to the service, were sent a club 'text alert' quoting Ancelotti saying: "We haven't arranged a meeting about my future."

At 7.52pm they received a second text which read: "CFC can confirm that Carlo Ancelotti parted company with the club today. The owner and board thank him for his work."

Having won the Premier League and FA Cup in his first season, the first time the club has won the Double, he led Chelsea to second place in the league in what has been a troubled campaign.

However, it has been the second failure in the Champions League -- going out in the quarter-finals to Manchester United -- which has ultimately ended the reign of a manager who has won that competition four times, twice as a player.

The treatment of Ancelotti is astonishing. He has been undermined by Abramovich and left embarrassed by the club's decision to sack assistant Ray Wilkins as well as its approach to transfer dealings. With sporting director Frank Arnesen also leaving the club -- he officially joins Hamburg this week -- Ancelotti also lost his biggest ally at Chelsea.

At the same time the Italian transformed Chelsea's playing style, making them far more attractive, while the way he conducted himself helped changed the perception of the club. His treatment this season has damaged that.

Ancelotti will not struggle for work although, interestingly, he has stated, honestly, that he would like to remain in England. His trusted assistant Bruno Demichelis will also leave with him.

In its statement Chelsea added: "Chelsea's long-term football objectives and ambition remain unchanged and we will now be concentrating our efforts on identifying a new manager."

Those efforts will concentrate, for now, on persuading Guus Hiddink to leave Turkey and that may become possible after the country's crucial Euro 2012 qualifier away to Belgium on June 3. The Dutchman has made much of the fact that he has never broken a contract, but if Turkey are out of contention for next summer's tournament it will be easier for him to leave.

However Hiddink, who enjoyed a successful spell as caretaker before Ancelotti was hired, has also suggested that he may not be keen to take a full-time manager's job and it may well be that Chelsea can only persuade him to return as a technical director working alongside a younger coach.

Certainly discussions have taken place with Gianfranco Zola about a role with the club, although sources have ruled out hiring the likes of Marco van Basten or Frank Rijkaard. It may be too expensive -- and early -- to hire Andre Villas-Boas but he is being discussed.

The 33-year-old Portuguese has stated that he wants to take Porto into the Champions League and any prospective employer would need to pay a €15m release clause this year, which would be far less next summer.

There is the prospect of Chelsea trying something different. Mark Hughes has prospered this season at Fulham -- and Chelsea have also looked at Spurs boss Harry Redknapp. And then there's the big one. It had appeared impossible that Abramovich would contemplate turning to Mourinho -- not least because he left with such a big pay-off.

But there's one intriguing prospect. Would Mourinho consider leaving Real Madrid to ensure that Villas-Boas, who he no longer speaks to having once been so close, does not get the job? It's possible, although highly unlikely.

But then this is Chelsea and yesterday their players looked like they were running in treacle. Everton even granted them a man advantage for much of the second half when Seamus Coleman dismissed for a second bookable offence.

By then, Beckford had done his Weah impression, picking the ball up in his own penalty area and managing to evade all of Chelsea's defenders before chipping goalkeeper Petr Cech.

"Roy of the Rovers lives," quipped Moyes. "It was the sort of thing you read in magazines." For Ancelotti, there was to be no such fairytale ending. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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