LONDON — How wonderful to have been a fly on the wall when Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich discussed with his advisers (whoever they might be) who should succeed Guus Hiddink as manager.
Hiddink, a man of his word, returned to coach Russia (where much of his salary is paid by Abramovich) after Chelsea beat Everton to win the F.A. Cup. He promised the group of Russian players he will almost certainly lead to at least the 2010 World Cup playoffs that he would complete the project, and even Roman’s millions would not make the Dutchman stay at Stamford Bridge, as at the club everyone wanted him to.
So . . .
Abramovich: I think Carlo Ancelotti of AC Milan is our man . . .
Adviser I: He’s done well in his six years in charge at Milan, he has won two Champions League finals . . .
Adviser II: But only one domestic title and one Italian Cup in 11 years as a coach in Serie A with Reggiana, Parma, Juventus and Milan . . .
Abramovich: We must win the Champions League and he has won it twice, Ancelotti is our man . . .
Adviser I: His English is poor . . .
Adviser II: Doesn’t really matter — we have only three or four English players in the first-team squad. Er, that’s a joke boss . . .
Abramovich (not smiling): No, it must be Ancelotti . . .
Adviser I: How about David Moyes of Everton . . .?
Abramovich: He isn’t foreign . . .
Adviser I: Well, he’s Scottish . . .
Adviser II: He has consistently been the second-best domestic manager in the Premier League after Sir Alex Ferguson. Moyes had led Everton into Europe for four successive seasons, spent relatively little money in the transfer market but has unearthed some gems such as Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Joleon Lescott, Mikel Arteta . . .
Adviser I: Moyes has proved himself in the English leagues, he is well respected, has a strong personality, Ferguson speaks very highly of him, the players would react positively to his man-management and most believe he is ready to step up into the Big Four . . .
Abramovich: That’s it then. Ancelotti.
Chelsea’s obsession with foreign coaches continues, Ancelotti becoming the Blues’ eighth consecutive non-British manager as he signed a three-year contract.
The response by the English media has been generally lukewarm, the general belief that Ancelotti could be another Luiz Felipe Scolari, who won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and led Portugal to the final of Euro 2004. Scolari, whose English was more fun than fluent, seemed unable to handle a multinational squad in a culture where he had no experience.
The suspicion is that Ancelotti is too institutionalized in the Italian game and from working in a tranquil atmosphere at Milan he is stepping into a lion’s den of cliques at Stamford Bridge.
John Terry and Frank Lampard remain a powerful force in a dressing room where Hiddink achieved unity and restored the confidence that had filtered away under Scolari.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Hiddink returned to Chelsea after next year’s World Cup, with Ancelotti becoming the next very rich ex-Chelsea manager to walk away from Stamford Bridge with a fat compensation check.
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are often accused of not writing the truth . . . ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kaka, the deeply religious Brazilian midfielder who wears a vest under his jersey with “I belong to Jesus” written on the front.
On Tuesday, Kaka said: “I will say it for one last time: I do not want to leave Milan. I prefer to keep quiet for the time being because I don’t want to be misinterpreted or, even worse, manipulated. I just want to say to the millions of Rossoneri fans that I have made my choice. I want to stay. Just leave me alone, please. I’m staying at Milan. And as of today, this case is over.”
On Wednesday, Kaka agreed to a £56 million move from AC Milan to Real Madrid, smashing the previous world record of £47.3 million held since 2001 when Zinedine Zidane was transferred from Juventus to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Kaka’s move is scheduled to be confirmed on Monday.
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makes the longest and most arduous trip possible in Europe to play Kazakhstan in a 2010 World Cup qualifying tie on Saturday.
Almaty is an eight-hour flight from London with a five-hour time-difference. The far-flung Eastern outpost is only 350 km from the Chinese border and lies even further from London than New York.
There is usually a banana skin somewhere in any qualifying program, and at the end of a long season that ended two weeks ago for most of the England squad it will need to be at its most professional to ensure its 100 percent qualifying record is maintained.
Christopher Davies covers the Premier League for the London Daily Telegraph.
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