LONDON, June 2 – As Carlo Ancelotti sped through Paris towards a meeting that would change his life, it became clear to the Italian that he was dealing with a club like no other.Ancelotti was officially confirmed as Chelsea manager on Monday and will start work on July 1, but the deal had been 12 months in the making.
Ordinarily a chauffeur-driven journey in the French capital would be an opportunity to relax and take in the sights. Yet in mid-2008 Ancelotti was embroiled in a mission that he could only liken to something from a James Bond film.
Then manager of AC Milan, Ancelotti was about to meet Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to discuss the possibility of managing the Premier League club and secrecy was the order of the day.
To avoid being seen in public with Abramovich, Ancelotti, wearing dark glasses, was taken to Paris’s George V hotel, where he was whisked to a private room far from prying eyes.
Abramovich was searching for a new manager after sacking Avram Grant following Chelsea’s Champions League final defeat to Manchester United and Ancelotti was top of his list.
They had already met once in Geneva and Ancelotti, writing in his autobiography, said: "The manager of Milan is on a secret mission. I, like 007, on my own. Sat behind a driver with the face of a killer".
Ancelotti spent several hours discussing his football philosophy with Abramovich and clearly impressed the Russian billionaire.
"Abramovich wanted to know everything about me, my way of working, my philosophy," Ancelotti wrote. "He was and still is looking for a team with a precise identity."
Although Abramovich was persuaded to appoint Luiz Felipe Scolari instead of Ancelotti, this time the Chelsea owner has finally got his man.
With Guus Hiddink, Chelsea’s interim manager after Scolari’s sacking in February, back in Russia, Abramovich has persuaded Ancelotti to leave Milan with the lure of a three-year contract worth 6.5 million pounds a year (7.4 million euros).
The 49-year-old’s pedigree in Europe makes him attractive to Abramovich, who is desperate for Ancelotti to repeat Milan’s two Champions League triumphs.
Ancelotti has been the clear favourite for the job since Hiddink revealed he wouldn’t be staying and the Italian has been keeping a close eye on events at Chelsea in preparation for his new life in England.
"I confess that at certain points in 2008-09 I watched my DVDs of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba," Ancelotti wrote.
"I was already the coach of the boys on paper. I thought, there are worse things in life than me and Abramovich together. The worst for him had already been and gone. He had already worked with His Specialness, Jose Mourinho."
After eight years at Milan and stints in charge at Parma, Juventus and Reggiana, Ancelotti will manage outside Italy for the first time.
He won promotion to Serie A with Reggiana in only his second season and then helped Parma finish second in the Italian top-flight.
A spell at Juventus brought only frustration however as the Turin giants finished runners-up twice.
In 2001 he moved to Milan, the club he had graced as a player. Ancelotti’s impact was felt in 2003 as Milan won the Champions League final against Juventus.
After his solitary Milan league title in 2004, he led them back to the Champions League final in 2005 only to be pipped on penalties by Liverpool after an incredible 3-3 draw.
Victory over Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League final avenged that defeat but Ancelotti struggled to achieve more success with an aging team.
He leaves the San Siro with eight trophies in total and a new mission in his sights.