Ron Gourlay, the new chief executive of Chelsea, has announced that the club has set Carlo Ancelotti the target of winning the UEFA Champions League twice in the next five years. To call this an ambitious goal would be an understatement, but it is not impossible; both Barcelona and A.C. Milan have achieved this feat in recent years. Chelsea however, have never won the competition and so one would think that they should be focussing on winning their first title, before talking about a hypothetical second triumph.
That is not to say they are without a pedigree in the competition. Since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 they have performed admirably in European competition, with five semi-final appearances in the last six years, but a series of unfortunate events have prevented them from lifting the famous trophy. From Ranieri’s meltdown in Monaco to Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’; from Terry’s untimely slip in Moscow to Iniesta’s last minute heartbreaker at the Bridge; it is fair to say that Chelsea have not had luck on their side in this competition. Some of the more superstitious fans will tell you that they are cursed and are destined to never be crowned the kings of Europe.
But perhaps Chelsea are right to set themselves such lofty targets; they have a strong squad with experience in every department and can expect high quality additions in January. The seeding system in the group stages virtually guarantees that they will be present in knockout round each year and even at this stage there is little to fear. Chelsea will be favourites against most of the teams that they will come up against, with the possible exceptions of last season’s finalists; and when facing Barcelona or Manchester United, the team from West London should feel no fear, they are at worst a match for both these sides.
It is doubtful that Gourlay’s proclamation will put any more pressure on Carlo Ancelotti; the experienced Italian knows all about the pressures of a high profile managerial post having answered to Silvio Berlusconi at Milan. It is unlikely that these targets will have come as a shock to Ancelotti; he signed a three-year contract with Chelsea in the summer and will have been made fully aware of exactly what was expected from his time in charge of the club. It should also be remembered that while Chelsea may dream of conquering Europe, it is three years since they lifted the league title. If Ancelotti rectifies that particular anomaly, the pressure to deliver European success should be relieved significantly. Goulay’s decision to publicise the club’s targets is questionable but make no mistake, Ancelotti will have been well aware of them before he read the newspaper this morning.