Wednesday 28 June 2017

Ancelotti plays it cool as Blues future hangs in the balance

Jason Burt

Carlo Ancelotti said yesterday that he was not "desperate" to remain as Chelsea manager as he approached the decision day on his future with his customary calmness.

In truth, and certainly it is a view shared by those close to Ancelotti, that decision has probably already been taken.

"Carlo feels he has already been sacked," a friend said last night, and that is partly because of the silence from club owner Roman Abramovich.

Communication has been curtailed. Ancelotti spoke gratefully of the support he has received from Chelsea, the freedom he has had to do his job these past two years, but pulled up quickly when the subject of the sacking of his former assistant Ray Wilkins was raised.

"I don't want to give an opinion on this," Ancelotti said when he was asked about Wilkins' departure last November and the influence this had, having already said: "That was their (Chelsea's) decision. But on my job, no problem."

The sense is that something broke between Chelsea, Abramovich and Ancelotti at that time, as the latter was clearly undermined and has struggled to recover. The sight of Abramovich shaking his head as Ancelotti made a triple substitution in the 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle last weekend only compounded the feeling that he is preparing to appoint his seventh manager in seven years.

Ancelotti, with one year left on his contract, will find out soon, although whether he will be afforded a meeting with the hierarchy after tomorrow's final league game away to Everton, is in some significant doubt.

"At this moment I'm very quiet, very calm. I just want to wait to see what the club have decided," Ancelotti said. "I'm not desperate to keep this job. It's not my decision. My desire is to stay here because I feel happy here."

Ancelotti, after his misgivings over Wilkins' departure which left him contemplating his future, does want to stay. But he will not plead for more time. "It's my character. I don't know if it's a weakness or not. I don't want to fight to keep my job," he explained.

"The club have to judge two years of my job. If they think that my job was good for this club, I will stay. If they think that my job was not so good, I will have to go."

Ancelotti himself is, rightly, in no doubt and it should not be like this.

He won the Premier League and FA Cup in his first season and Chelsea will finish second in the league after this difficult campaign and, understandably, wants both years to be evaluated together.

"The club have to be objective. If they decide to change, it's not a problem. You won't see me crying. I will accept the decision of the club and find another solution," he said.

Abramovich is already working on his own 'solution' and the word is that he is still hoping to persuade Turkey coach Guus Hiddink to take over. He remains the clear favourite. It is believed Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard have been ruled out, while the release clause in Andre Villas-Boas' contract is prohibitive at €15m.

Ancelotti's only chance of remaining in place appears to be the failure to appoint someone else, but it is believed Chelsea will remove him without the choice having been made and long in advance of pre-season training. The last real opportunity for a reprieve went with the Champions League exit to Manchester United.

Ancelotti knows where it went wrong and the harsh understanding is that the club do not believe he did enough to arrest that slide. "The cause was November and December when we weren't able to manage the bad moment," he said.

"When we were winning 6-0 at the start of the season, I said that the difficult moment would arrive, and when it did we couldn't manage it.

"We had a lot of injuries but the bad moment was too long. We had a lot of problems during the season, tried to move on quickly, but sometimes weren't able to do it. We didn't win, in the end." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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