Triumphant Chelsea cannot dwell on the Double
Maybe he was still a bit giddy from all the celebrations – which he led by bellowing club chants out on the microphone – but what Carlo Ancelotti said in the immediate aftermath of Chelsea clinching their first ever Double was certainly telling.
“If every season is like this I'd like to stay for 10 years,” said the Italian, “I'm ready to sign a new contract. The club always supports you and gives you everything you need.”
What he needs now might be a few new players.
Michael Ballack’s 44th-minute withdrawal from Saturday’s FA Cup final – following the crudest of challenges from Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng – was probably the last time we’ll see the out of contract midfielder in a Chelsea shirt, while Joe Cole isn’t exactly making encouraging noises about signing a new deal either. Deco and Juliano Belletti will definitely exit the club in the summer, and Nicolas Anelka is known to be unhappy at a lack of progress in talks to extend his contract, which currently only has one year left.
It might sound silly after a team has just won the Double, but Ancelotti may need an overhaul.
If he is to stay for 10 years – and he stayed at Milan for eight – then his ageing squad needs a bit of renovation in several areas.
Chelsea suddenly look short in midfield, where the 23-year-old John Obi Mikel is the youngest regular performer, while Anelka, 31, and Didier Drogba, 32, could do with some younger striking back-up.
The tabloids have already had several field days, as daily attempts to liberate Fernando Torres from the financial meltdown at Liverpool continue. Kaká, Franck Ribéry, Luka Modric, Sergio Agüero, Alexandre Pato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javi Martinez are other names that have appeared next to Chelsea’s in the gossip columns in recent weeks, and while plenty of those rumours will – like many others this summer – prove to be baseless, the need for reinforcements in west London is a very real one.
Chelsea cannot afford to stand still after winning the Double, but the good thing for them is that everyone at the club will know this.
There is reportedly still anger within the walls of Stamford Bridge at the embarrassing manner that Chelsea exited the Champions League at the hands of José Mourinho and Inter Milan, and Roman Abramovich won’t rest until the trophy he prizes more than any other is in his hands.
We are unlikely to see wild spending of the kind witnessed when the Russian first arrived at the club in the summer of 2003, but adding one or two big stars to an already strong squad could see Chelsea move even further ahead of their rivals at the top of the table, all of whom – as Mourinho was at pains to point out over the weekend – got weaker last summer, and none of them look in a position to be able to spend big this time around.
The celebrations will continue for now, Ancelotti can carry on conducting supporters in mass, Chelsea chanting, but he’ll know that the hard work starts here.
It’s hard to get to the top, but it’s even harder to stay there.