Loyalty impels Ancelotti's quest
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In the sparse, serene town in which Carlo Ancelotti grew up, fedeltà, or loyalty, is ingrained into its inhabitants. And though the bustling metropolis he now calls home may be poles apart from the pig farm on which he was raised - both literally and figuratively - the Reggiolo native has graciously embraced this same devotion in London.

For while Manchester United were unable to retain Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Arsenal's squad was depleted by Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor, and Xabi Alonso bade farewell to Liverpool - all against the aforementioned clubs' pleas - Ancelotti has, in his ten weeks in the English capital, heard John Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard pledge their long-term futures to Chelsea.

The former pair had lucrative offers on tap from celebrated, seductive suitors. As their piaceres were uttered to Ancelotti, arrivedercis were presumed forthcoming. It was an imprudent conjuncture.

Terry spurned the covetous advances of Manchester City, who reportedly offered him a £200,000-a-week deal. "I have been here since I was 14, so if anyone thought I was going to leave they did not know me as well as they should. I'm honoured to say I have stayed loyal to Chelsea and I will continue to stay loyal to Chelsea," declared the 28-year-old England centre-back.

Ancelotti's man-management skills are exceptional, he is a brilliant coach. To have played under a manager of his quality is a real privilege.
David Beckham on Carlo Ancelotti

Amid reignited interest from enduring admirers AC Milan, a club Didier Drogba had revealed "all footballers dream of signing for", the Ivorian colossus elected to commit himself to the capital outfit until 2012. "I have decided to extend my contract for two extra years, and I am very happy and proud to continue to wear the blue of Chelsea until then," said the 31-year-old forward.

Lampard, who seemingly has an open invite to join Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, made his own covenant. "I'm a Chelsea lifer now," he stated. "With the news about John Terry staying, we've both been here a long time and I'd like to keep it that way. I've got such a strong affiliation to the club."

Publicly, the trio separately attributed their decision to stay to love. Privately, in their lust for Premier League and UEFA Champions League glory, the résumé of Ancelotti must have served as persuasion. Under the former Azzurri midfielder's guidance, Milan won Serie A, became champions of Europe twice, and lifted the FIFA Club World Cup - arguably with an inferior, leaner squad to the one he has since inherited.

"Ancelotti's man-management skills are exceptional, he is a brilliant coach," enthused David Beckham. "To have played under a manager of his quality is a real privilege. He is one of the greats."

The England international is one of countless former Ancelotti pupils to have issued him incandescent appraisals. The Italian nevertheless knows a dark cloud of impatience now hangs threateningly over him, ready to unleash hailstones on his comfort in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat. Indeed, while Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been at the United and Arsenal helms for 23 and 13 seasons respectively, and just two men have occupied the Liverpool reins over the past 11 years, Roman Abramovich has employed six managers since assuming control of Chelsea in 2003.

Ancelotti, however, does not find himself at an alien standpoint. When he was appointed Milan coach in 2001, he became the position's ninth incumbent in only five years. Yet, improbably, he lasted eight years and left of his own accord.

The 50-year-old is aware he needs to magnify Chelsea's trophy cabinet - and hurriedly - but is confident he can do so by deploying the midfield-diamond formation that served him so generatively in the world's fashion capital. Lampard, who will play at its apex, has welcomed this systematic permutation.

"I am very happy to play there," said the 31-year-old. "I will probably give a little more defensively to the team than other players do in that position, but at the same time I think I can create and score more than I have done in the past." Quite a statement from a player that has posted 100 goals in 263 games from the Chelsea engine room over the past five seasons.

"I want to win the league more than anything," continued Lampard. "I grew up watching the Premiership and it's a lovely feeling to be the best team in your country. I want to get that back. The Champions League is definitely something I want to win at least once in my career, but for me the league is what we need to get the consistency levels back we had a few years ago.

"There's a real sense of optimism under the new manager. Carlo Ancelotti has been very impressive. He has many strengths, but for me being very close to his players and being very organised are the main ones. We have picked up his ideas very quickly and he has settled in England very quickly."

It will be very interesting because a number of teams could win it. I don't like to say I will win, but I have a good feeling.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti on the Premier League title race

Ancelotti has, indeed, adapted cosily to a city named the global capital of the 21st century by New York magazine. "I have very fond memories of growing up on the farm," he reminisced. "There was a real sense of togetherness. I loved to be around family and friends. Reggiolo is a beautiful place, peaceful, but I'm very happy here (in London)."

This mirth will rapidly degenerate into misery if results do not go Chelsea's way, given Ancelotti's dedication to his profession. "I love football; every day, every hour. I love the tactics, the play, and I love finding and trying new solutions. If I have an idea of how to play, I put this idea to the players and they go out and play the way I want. This is not easy to do and is why I need a good relationship with them.

Lampard is not the only player to whom Ancelotti has ingratiated himself, despite the Italian's self-confessed volatility. John Mikel and Florent Malouda have penned contract extensions, while Ricardo Carvalho's desperation to quit the club has been vanquished by a determination to help Chelsea recapture the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2006.

There is certainly substantial reason to believe the three-time English champions are capable of realising this goal. Michael Essien, a vibrant influence, and Joe Cole, comfortably Chelsea's principal source of flair, both missed the majority of last season through injury. Drogba, likewise, missed a sizeable portion of their run to a third-placed finish.

The Blues improved as the 2008/09 campaign progressed. They pocketed 34 points from their last possible 39 - Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal seized 31, 32 and 28 respectively from this same 13-game sequence.

Furthermore, while their three chief rivals have been debilitated thereafter, Chelsea have strengthened. Sure, goalkeeper Ross Turnbull and teenage forward Daniel Sturridge will likely gain more action in the reserves this term, but Yuri Zhirkov is a fascinating arrival who will provide Ancelotti with a different option.

Chelsea overcame Manchester United on penalties to win the Community Shield - and gain a psychological edge in the title race - on Sunday. "I am very happy, it was an important match," said Ancelotti afterwards. "Manchester United are a great team with great experience. They will be our main rivals for the Premiership. But it will be very interesting because a number of teams could win it.

"I feel we have an advantage because we have the same group, the same players and they have a very good relationship. Our important players have stayed faithful. I think I can win the Premier League for Chelsea. I don't like to say I will win, but I have a good feeling."