LONDON, August 12 – Even as Carlo Ancelotti basked in the warm afterglow of his triumphant first season at Chelsea, the Italian's mind was already turning to the task that will define his reign – the quest to bring the Champions League to Stamford Bridge.
Breaking Manchester United’s stranglehold on the Premier League, and winning the FA Cup as well, just 12 months after arriving in England was a remarkable achievement, but Ancelotti knows those prizes will only satisfy his employer temporarily.
Ever since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, the Russian billionaire has lusted after success in Europe.
Abramovich was persuaded to invest in Chelsea after being entranced by an epic Champions League tie at Old Trafford between United and Real Madrid and he still regards the competition as his holy grail.
His decision to hire Ancelotti was largely based on the former AC Milan manager’s pedigree in Europe – he won the Champions League twice during his spell at the San Siro – and it is that by which the Italian’s time in west London will be judged.
For a while last season, it seemed Chelsea’s elimination from Europe at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan might cost Ancelotti his job before he had even lasted a year.
The double guaranteed his safety for now, but job security remains on his mind and he readily admits Europe is the number one goal this season.
"In my first season with Chelsea, we won the Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield. But I missed out on the Champions League, so that is now my dream," Ancelotti said.
"At the moment everything here in London is good. But I know if we do not keep winning that things will soon change for me.
"So we must quickly rediscover the enthusiasm we had last season and the same good football."
To achieve that aim is clearly well within Chelsea’s reach given the club’s record of reaching the latter stages of the competition so often with the current crop of players.
Motivation shouldn’t be a problem as many of the side beaten by Manchester United in the 2008 final are still around and would love to make amends for that penalty shoot-out defeat in the Moscow rain.
Combining a European challenge while also competing for the Premier League is a tricky balancing act though and requires an extremely strong squad.
Post World Cup fatigue and injuries to key players disrupted Chelsea’s pre-season preparations significantly and led the team to suffer four successive defeats.
United exposed a few of the current weaknesses in Ancelotti’s team with a 3-1 victory over the Blues in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday and the Italian admits it could be two weeks before his men are at peak fitness.
With that in mind, the pre-season departures of Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Deco, Juliano Belletti and Ricardo Carvalho have left Ancelotti with some holes to fill in his squad.
Signing Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool represents a like for like replacement for Cole.
But Ancelotti knows more new faces are needed yet and he has targeted Brazilian duo Ramires, an energetic midfielder, and David Luiz, a composed defender, who both play for Benfica.
If those two arrive, Ancelotti’s confident boast that his team could even win the treble this year would look even more realistic.
"Last year was a fantastic experience for me and I have improved because of it," Ancelotti said.
"I had doubts last year, when I started, but now I have more knowledge about the team and club and about the atmosphere in England and the teams here and so I think we will start the season in a different situation.
"We want to do the same again. We plan to be competitive and do better in the Champions League."