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In search of the real Ancelotti

Ancelotti has signed a three-year deal at Chelsea
Ancelotti signed a three-year deal at Chelsea in June

By Brian Alexander
in Northern Italy

From Milan to the Parmesan cheese-making centre of Reggiolo, it is impossible to find anyone who has a bad word to say about Carlo Ancelotti.

That is except for the self-appointed 'Special One'. But more of him later.

On my travels for a special report for BBC Radio 5 Live Sport, I heard repeatedly about his sparkling sense of humour, his calmness under pressure, his love for his family and his genuine modesty. Is he too nice a guy to be boss of a Premier League club?

"Of course not," says another Italian who managed Chelsea, Gianluca Vialli.

"He has proved in his years at AC Milan that you don't have to be a bad person to be successful. He is living proof that nice guys can be outstanding at their jobs."

During the bad times he doesn't get down if things aren't going his way

Carlo Ancelotti's father, Giuseppe

Ancelotti was born and raised in Reggiolo, a small farming town nestled between Milan and Parma. It's a small, simple provincial town. Nothing that special happens here, except for the national burping championships.

I spent an afternoon at the Ancelotti family home and met his 86-year-old father Giuseppe and his nephew Luca. Both talk with passion and pride about his success as an international player and his Champions League triumphs as coach of AC Milan.

"I am eternally proud. I get very emotional when I talk about him," said Giuseppe, a retired farmer who will miss watching his son's every move on Italian television, but he told me: "He telephones every two or three days."

Ancelotti's keen sense of humour is clearly a key part of his character. "He is always joking with people," says Giuseppe.

"Carletto's very light-hearted and takes things in his stride. He's very philosophical about life. During the bad times he doesn't get down if things aren't going his way."

Roman Abramovich was a very down-to-earth man when he met my son

Giuseppe Ancelotti

When visiting the AC Milan training facility at Milanello I chatted to their Australian goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac, who said: "His humour is also an important part of his make up.

"You guys in England like a black, dry humour. He'll fit in well with that. The media should enjoy it as well. He's good fun.

"He doesn't take things too seriously. Off the park he enjoys his life. The players will be able to have an evening out, as long as they know he wants 100% on the field."

There's a strong feeling that it was time for AC Milan and Ancelotti to part company and his father Giuseppe added: "I'm very happy about him going there. I've never been to London but I know there's a lot of quality in the team.

"The other reason is Roman Abramovich was a very down-to-earth man when he met my son. That impressed Carlo very much."

He came here when he was 13 or 14. It was obvious that he had a talent

Reggiolo president Adone Bertazzoni

And nephew Luca told me: "His move to Chelsea came as no surprise to us. Mr Abramovich has courted Carlo since last year and we felt his experience in Milan was coming to an end."

Luca plans to travel to a Chelsea game, but Giuseppe is housebound.

"My legs don't work too well," he said. "And I don't like aeroplanes." Could he not go by train or even car? "No, I will just wait for Carlo to call me and tell me how he is doing."

The local football club in Reggiolo, where Ancelotti played as a teenager before being spotted by Parma, proudly displays fading photographs of the young Carletto on every wall of their clubhouse.

Club president Adone Bertazzoni said: "He came here when he was 13 or 14. It was obvious that he had a talent. He was different. He was a popular boy, but he was quiet and well-behaved. He was impeccably brought up."

For a different perspective I sought the opinion of his rival and one-time Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho at the Inter Milan's Pinetina training ground. Mourinho had the occasional difference of opinion with Ancelotti last season.

So how will your good friend Carlo Ancelotti cope in the Premier League, I asked during a packed press conference?

"He is not my friend," snapped back Mourinho, those hazel eyes ablaze.

But he added: "Ancelotti will find it different, but he's a good coach, he has experience and he has the qualities to adapt and to succeed."

Brian Alexander presents 'Sport Specials' on BBC Radio 5 Live. Hear 'Just One Carletto' tonight on BBC Radio 5 Live Sport from 7pm.



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see also
Is Ancelotti right for Chelsea?
01 Jun 09 |  Chelsea
Ancelotti targets European glory
01 Jun 09 |  Chelsea
Ancelotti appointed Chelsea boss
01 Jun 09 |  Chelsea
Ancelotti leaves job at AC Milan
01 Jun 09 |  Chelsea


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