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Interesting Ancelotti interview...

The Brit

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In his first interview, Carlo Ancelotti on religion, his rural upbringing, dealing with the superstars of Stamford Bridge - and life at the top of the Barclays Premier League with Chelsea...

Just as Carlo Ancelotti began setting out the humble upbringing and philosophies that had helped make him one of the most successful coaches in the world, his words were drowned out by the clattering of rotor blades.

In the distance, a helicopter was air-lifting Michael Ballack to a sponsor's photo-shoot. Meanwhile, in the training ground car park, John Terry and Ashley Cole were being shown the latest Bentley by an enthusiastic salesman.

It seemed the perfect montage from Ancelotti's daily life and proof of his personal triumph: the farmer's son from Reggiolo who grew up to be a winner in some of football's most ruthless urban environments.

This is his achievement, the way he has moved between the two spheres, equally at home, always comfortable in his skin. He called his autobiography Preferisco La Coppa, which loosely translates as 'I prefer trophies' but also contains a sly nod to his previous life. Coppa is a relatively cheap cut of ham from the neck of a pig, the form of salume that Ancelotti most enjoys.

This is a man who has never strayed far from his roots as part of the agricultural labouring class. Ancelotti's father worked the land, but did not own it.

He was not the product of landed gentry, but of a small rural community in the region that produces the best Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, an endless cycle of milking and tending, early mornings, late nights and weeks without weekend.

'When I was a little boy, we lived with four or five families, different houses but the same land,' Ancelotti told me. 'When we were gathering in the grain it was like a big party.

'Then when we had finished the landowner would come in and he would plunge a stick into the middle of the grain. One side was his half and the other was our half.

'I could not understand it at my young age. I could not understand how my father had worked so hard and it was not his to keep. He worked all the time, every day, there was no time that was free because cows need milking twice daily. But if we had chickens, the landowner would still get the biggest one.

'My father just accepted it. He never complained. My character comes from him. He is very calm, very quiet, very patient. I never saw him angry. It may seem so different to my life now, but I see comparisons with football all the time.

'The farmer receives the money for his work after one year. You milk the cow, the milk goes to make the cheese, you age the cheese, sell the cheese and one year on you are paid. You need good planning for it to work.

'Football is the same, because we work now and next year we may receive our prize. Chelsea feel they have been unlucky in the Champions League. I tell them that this season we have a chance to put that right.

'That is what I said to Milan in 2007, when we played Liverpool again after losing to them in 2005. This is our chance to get things in order, but while we are waiting, we must be calm, we must be controlled, we must be patient.'

Football is largely a game for urbanites.

Argentina has a minor tradition of producing players from middle-class farming communities, but the majority of players and coaches will have more in common with the upbringing of, say, Sir Alex Ferguson in a Glasgow shipyard than Ancelotti's bucolic existence.

Before managing Chelsea, even when employed by AC Milan and Juventus, Ancelotti was, to some extent, working in a foreign language because his natural dialect is so different to everyday Italian that it can barely be understood. He tries a few words out on Gary, his translator. Boot-air (buter), he says. Gary looks nonplussed. It means butter, Ancelotti explains. The Italian is burro. Tom-Archie (tomache), offers Ancelotti. Another blank look. 'Tomato,' he cries, translating it into Italian as pomodoro.

'The words sound quite English, but it is influenced most by French,' Ancelotti continues. 'When I left my region the first big club I went to was Roma. It was a problem to come into the dressing room with all the people from the city at first, and going out in Rome at 15 was not easy.

'I was lonely, I was staying away from home without my mother and father. The first year was very difficult, but I had to become used to it.

'I liked football, I liked to play, I liked to train, it was my passion; but I have never lost my dialect. I still speak it with my father or when I go home. It is impossible for me to forget.'

Before being spotted by Roma, Ancelotti was a member of the youth academy at Parma, then a third-tier club in Italy. He combined Sunday matches with a weekly education from the Salesian Society, a Catholic order of priests specialising in the Christian schooling of the young from poorer backgrounds.

It left him with Catholic beliefs, although he is not a churchgoer. He reveals an affinity to Padre Pio, of Pietrelcina, now regarded as a saint but a controversial figure during his life.

Padre Pio claimed to experience stigmata and was frequently condemned by the Vatican. He numbered followers in the millions, however, and, although he lived in poverty, used their money to build a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy.

'He performed miracles, and I feel moved emotionally by his life,' Ancelotti added. 'I believe in God, and I pray, although for personal matters, not for football. I think God has better things to do.'

Not that Ancelotti would have much need to call on Him even if he was spiritually inclined right now. Chelsea are top of the league with a 100 per cent record and the new coach has been showered in praise from players and contemporaries during his first months in charge.

Yesterday, Fabio Capello, the England manager stated that Ancelotti had restored Chelsea to the motivational levels of the Jose Mourinho era. 'He has regained some of the spirit that had been lost with previous managers,' Capello said.

Much the same was being said of Luiz Felipe Scolari last season, so it is early days yet, but there is no doubt Ancelotti has reinvigorated key individuals at the club, not least Didier Drogba, whose form has been stunning at a time when many believed Chelsea had indulged one tantrum too many, following his outburst after the Champions League defeat to Barcelona.

Ancelotti says it never crossed his mind that the player should be sold, and goes farther, placing him among the team's authority figures when history would suggest a selfish streak that precluded leadership.

'There is a word in Italy: trascinatore,' says Ancelotti. 'It means the player that pulls the group together. Gennaro Gattuso was the trascinatore at Milan, John Terry is a trascinatore at Chelsea, but Drogba, too.

'There are leaders that speak a lot. Before the match, he can do this, but then he leads by example with the way he plays. This happened from the start for me. I did not have to talk to him; straight away he was like that. There was never a chance he would leave. He is far too important for us.

'I know some see him as a prima donna, but the difference between a prima donna and a leader is a centimetre. The leader uses his talent for the team, the prima donna for himself, but Drogba has never been a prima donna for me.

'He reminds me of the great players, the way he has been this season. If he is feeling a good sensation about the game, if he is confident, he is impossible to play against.

'I used to play with Marco van Basten at Milan. I asked him how we should give the ball to him. He said, "Just pass it, and then start running to congratulate me". He always thought he would score, and he was usually right. When he is at his best, Drogba can be like that.

'It is different for me because I have never played with a stronger striker than Didier. Filippo Inzaghi at Milan was a smart guy, Andriy Shevchenko was strong, but not in the air, Hernan Crespo, Alessandro del Piero - Didier is different to them all. I think he is one of the best in the world right now. I would put him alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o but I would not swap him for any of them.

'Maybe if you look at technique, Torres can be better, but there is more to football than technical quality. There are a lot of players with fantastic technique, but they are not leaders.

'They have not made the most of their careers, because they do not have a strong character, personality or courage. You need all of those as much as technique. Didier has it all. When you find a player who has talent and is unselfish: hai vinto. You've won.'

Any praise from Ancelotti is to be savoured because this is a manager who has coached the greatest players in the game. As he reminisces names fall to the floor, but not in a gauche way. It is a simple fact of life that when discussing Frank Lampard's new position, he can recall how he placed Zinedine Zidane or Kaka, or that when proclaiming Ashley Cole the best left back in the world, he can establish his credentials as the coach of Paolo Maldini.

No doubt it was this pedigree that made him such a popular choice in the Chelsea dressing room. It also meant that he was used to managing and relating to players of the highest calibre. His style is to form a bond, to be friend and boss.

'My father was a big influence, but also a coach from Sweden that I worked with at Milan, Nils Liedholm,' Ancelotti recalls.

'He was incredible. Very controlled, very quiet, he never lost his emotion, and that taught me so many things. Above all, at half-time you do not have the time to explode, because there may only be three minutes to get the information through.

'Sometimes you need to get after them with strong words, but it is more important to explain and resolve the problems on the field. So I don't throw tables: I talk. When I first came there was too much distance between me and the players. I like to joke with them, I like to speak with them - to me it is very important and I could not do that. Now we are closer. I think at first they considered me only as a boss and I did not have the language to break through.

'Only one time have they upset me and that was in a friendly match against Reading. We were losing 2-0 at half-time and I wanted to be angry, but I didn't have the words to convey that emotion. It is hard to be angry in another language.

'Ray Wilkins said I should have used Italian and then they could have seen by my emotion and the look on my face that I was upset. Vaffanculo! The others could have sorted out what I wanted done after. What is different here is the music before games. I am used to players who are very focused, very concentrated, so when I came to England it was a big surprise to hear music in our dressing room.

'In Italy, coaches are not happy if people talk, let alone have music. We had to stay focused. And it is not even good music. Bad music, s**t music, rap music.

'Florent Malouda chooses it, Mikel chooses it. But I decided I must have an open mind. In the end, listening to music is not important, giving the team the idea of how to play is important. We relate to each other through football.'

And that is the Ancelotti way encapsulated. He adapts, he rolls with it, and he cleverly adds some of his personality, too. He recalled that one year, in an attempt to cultivate his image as a man of the country, his sponsors sent him to pose for pictures fishing in Sardinia.

After two hours, nothing. So Ancelotti took a fish out of the freezer and was photographed reeling that in instead.

He may be a farm boy, but he is nobody's fool.

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Could you write a brief summary?

He grew up on a farm and draws parralels to football, you need to be patient to get a return.

Drogba is the bollocks and he wouldn't swap him for anyone.

He doesn't like rap music and cheats when he goes fishing.

He also thinks Tim W is a lazy git :lol:

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Well, this is awkward!

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