Chelsea's new boss Ancelotti in his own words: The owner can ask questions but I pick the team
02 June 2009 12:10
After a decade coaching at Juventus and AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti is no stranger to a changing room filled with genuine world stars, and big egos. In this extract from his autobiography, the new Chelsea boss offers a fascinating insight into his experiences with some of football's biggest names and the psychology behind his success.
The art of being calm is fundamental for me. I learnt it from my parents and it served me as a player when I was injured and as a coach a million times.
It helps me when I have to control a situation without being overtaken by nerves, or if I am put under pressure by a player, or criticism from fans, the club or the press. You need to have a good sense of calm, or else you will crack.
The squad is controlled by how you are. I like to talk with the players, not shout. But after certain matches, it can happen.
After a Milan defeat at Bologna, I lost my rag completely. It doesn't happen to me often but, hey, I'm human too. We had been absolutely awful, looking demotivated and uninterested. I destroyed the dressing room single-handedly: I punched the table, kicked in a door, smashed a bottle and screamed at the top of my lungs. I insulted everybody, and did so individually and personally. On purpose. I wanted to shake them, to hit them where it hurt.
I want to be clear on something. I name the team and I decide how we play. That's how it must be, the coach has to be in charge. And that's how it has always been everywhere I've worked. Yes, the chairman has a right to ask questions and the coach has a duty to provide an explanation. But that's it.
Drags to riches: Ancelotti grew up on a farm in Italy's pig country but went on to manage all-time greats. It happened a lot with (Silvio) Berlusconi. He fell in love with players. First, Van Basten, then Rui Costa, then Kaka, then Ronaldinho. Like most owners, he's a fan and that's fine, but there have to be limits.
In my first full season at Milan, 2002-03, the transfer market delivered two fancy presents: Clarence Seedorf and Rivaldo. And it was my job to find a way to shoehorn them into a line-up that already featured Andrea Pirlo and Rui Costa. Those four guys had to play, the club's philosophy demanded it entertainment and good football had to come before anything else.
Pirlo really helped me out. He approached me one day and suggested that he could play in a deep position, just in front of the back four. I was extremely sceptical. He was an attacking midfielder, his tendency was to run with the ball. And yet, it worked. He became one of the best in the world in that role. I stuck Seedorf out wide, with Rui Costa and Rivaldo behind the lone striker and presto! there was my 4-3-2-1, or Christmas Tree.
Jigsaw puzzle: Rui Costa, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini toast Champions League success in 2003
We were beautiful that year. We rolled right into the Champions League final, at Old Trafford, against Juventus. As always, I prepared my customary pre-match hand-written notes. I'm old-fashioned that way. You don't write a love letter on your computer (unless you're really sad).
My next final was, of course, against Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005. I've been asked many times what went through my head as they came back to level the score. The truth is my head was a big, empty void. It all happened so fast, it was all so improbable.
I haven't watched a single second of that match since then. I don't need to. It was hard enough finding a way to move on (and I have moved on: today, it's a defeat, just like the others I've suffered in my career).
Improbable: Steven Gerrard rises above the Rossoneri defence to connect with John Arne Riise's cross sparking Liverpool's historic comeback. Of course, we gained revenge just two years later, as we beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final in the Olympic Stadium in Athens. I don't remember too much about the game, but I do recall the party afterwards and how we drank the bar at our hotel dry. But at least we were even.
It was all such a great contrast to eight years before, the one time in my career I did not feel right.
It was 1999 when I moved to Juventus to replace Marcello Lippi. They drew up a contract right then and there, writing it out by hand with a blue pen on headed paper. Maybe I should have taken it as a warning. Or maybe it was the graffiti that greeted me the first time I went to Juve's offices and saw a big spray-painted welcome: 'A pig can't manage.' I was the pig, of course. Not that I mind, I grew up on a farm in a part of the world known for sausages, ham and other pork products.
While I never loved Juventus before taking over (and will probably never love them again) when I was in charge, I was the club's No 1 fan. That's what I'm like: I get deeply emotionally involved right away.
The best: Zinedine Zidane and Ancelotti prepare for a 1-1 drawat Old Trafford in the Champions League semi-final in Manchester United's Treble winning year.
In my time there I got to manage Zinedine Zidane, the greatest player I've ever worked with, just ahead of Kaka. Zidane is the footballer who has made me enjoy my life the most, a living spectacle that needs to be seen every day. Training was his passion and ours as well. He would invent and we would watch. You admire him.
Another touched by greatness came to me in the summer of 2003. They told me about a boy from Brazil, a good player, that I didn't know, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite. From the name he seemed someone higher than he was and, in the end, it wasn't far off. Kaka carried football and faith. Listen to him and you would be happy.
Working with the all-time greats: Ancelotti gets close to Paolo Maldini and Kaka.
When he arrived for training I wanted to ask him if he had told his mummy and daddy that he wasn't going to school today. Then he got on the field, still a little dazed by the jet lag. With the football at his feet he was monstrous. I stopped talking because words failed me. No words existed to define what I was seeing.
In contrast, as a player, I had bad knees. And me liking my food a bit too much didn't help, either. I was a regular for Italy by the age of 22, but missed the 1982 World Cup finals because of injury. Talk about regret.
Rehabilitating injuries wasn't much fun, especially back then. Added to that, I kept putting on weight. I was at Roma at the time and they couldn't figure out what was going on. But now that the statute of limitations has passed, I can share the secret of my weight gain.
During pre-season, we were at a training camp way up in the mountains. My room had a little kitchenette and, every night, around midnight, I had arranged for mushrooms to be smuggled to me.
We would then get down to the business of cooking usually fettuccine with porcini mushrooms and, more importantly, eating. And you can imagine what scoffing a big plate of pasta at one o'clock in the morning does to your metabolism. And especially my metabolism.