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Ancelotti's dramatic denial puts Hughes back in Chelsea frame·

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  1. BAK

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    Ancelotti's dramatic denial puts Hughes back in Chelsea frame·

    Milan coach 'staying 150%' after day of intrigue
    · Clubs dispute reports of meeting with Abramovich

    David Hytner The Guardian,
    Wednesday June 4 2008 Article history

    Carlo Ancelotti last night insisted he is not about to leave Milan for the vacant job of Chelsea manager after a day of frenzied discussion about his future. The Italian was also moved to deny he had met the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in Paris on Monday as the shutters went up at both clubs and strongly worded statements were pushed out.

    Chelsea will now concentrate their efforts on other candidates with Mark Hughes of Blackburn Rovers and Portugal's Luiz Felipe Scolari to the fore. Luciano Spalletti of Roma, another Italian, is also well regarded. "There haven't been contacts with Roman Abramovich's club," said Ancelotti. "I stay at Milan 150%."

    It was difficult to escape the feeling, though, that Chelsea had been spurned. It was reported at the beginning of last week that Abramovich had spoken to Ancelotti in Geneva, days after he had finalised the sacking of Avram Grant, ostensibly to canvas his opinions on potential managerial candidates. There followed Milan's claim at the weekend that Chelsea had requested permission to speak to Ancelotti, which is hotly contested at Stamford Bridge, and then came the insistent rumours yesterday of the Paris rendezvous. Adriano Galliani, the Milan vice-president, said on Saturday that Ancelotti and "another Italian coach were on top of Chelsea's wish list" but he denied that a deal could take place.

    "We will continue with him [Ancelotti] for a long time because he and the club are on the same wavelength," said Galliani. "Our relationship has been ideal since the first day."

    Galliani had made light of Chelsea's interest in Ancelotti by joking that they could have him if Didier Drogba, the Chelsea striker who is coveted at Milan, could move in the opposite direction. Behind the scenes, though, Galliani might have worried that the ground was being prepared for Ancelotti to listen to Chelsea. There was talk in Milan yesterday afternoon of Roberto Donadoni, the Italy manager, taking charge at San Siro after the conclusion of the European Championship.

    Ancelotti, who has twice won the Champions League as the manager of Milan, has a contract with them until 2010 but he ticked the boxes for Chelsea. Abramovich is seeking a manager with a proven track record at a significant level, which Ancelotti has and, as importantly, a figurehead who can instil discipline in the dressing-room and imbue the club with dignity.

    He wants an on-field tactician and a man who can play attractive football. Although Ancelotti was criticised early in his Milan tenure by the president Silvio Berlusconi for his defensive tactics, he is considered to be the most attack-minded of the top Italian coaches.

    It will also be incumbent on the new Chelsea manager to form a positive relationship with Abramovich who takes an interest in squad affairs and, having poured £578m into the club, believes he is entitled to discussions with and about the players. Ancelotti is used to dealing with the hierarchy at a big club, with opinionated directors, and the only minus against him was his lack of fluent English.

    Chelsea have maintained a supreme confidence since parting company with Grant the Saturday before last that the search for his successor is comfortably in hand. A series of high-profile candidates have been under consideration, notably Guus Hiddink, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Scolari, Hughes, Roberto Mancini, Frank Rijkaard and Spalletti only for several to have fallen by the wayside.

    Hiddink, the coach of Russia, who are bankrolled by Abramovich, has strongly maintained that he intends to honour his verbal agreement to take the team through qualifying for the 2010 World Cup while Eriksson, whose dismissal from Manchester City was finally confirmed on Monday, is undermined by his having turned down Chelsea twice previously. Mancini is locked in a legal battle with Internazionale over severance pay, having been sacked last week, while Rijkaard, who was dismissed by Barcelona, is believed to want some time out of the game.

    Chelsea said that they were "extremely happy [at] how our search is progressing". Their statement continued: "Chelsea football club has not reached agreement with any individual to become manager, nor have we sought permission from any organisation to talk to their manager."

    Paris appears to be a popular city for high-powered football men as last Friday, Massimo Moratti, the Internazionale owner, met with Jose Mourinho to discuss his installation as Mancini's managerial successor. Galliani, though, said that Ancelotti had given him assurances that he had not met Abramovich at the Four Seasons hotel in the French capital.

    "I can confirm that he [Ancelotti] was in Paris on Monday but not to meet Abramovich," said Galliani. "That is something he has denied expressively. He was in Paris on his own business. Ancelotti is coach of Milan and will continue to be so."
     
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