Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti was so enthusiastic in praising Steven Gerrard yesterday following the Liverpool midfielder's hat-trick against Napoli on Thursday night, he left reporters questioning whether the champions might be considering another offer for the player they tried to sign for £35m in 2005.
Ancelotti denied it. “No, he is not on our list,” the Italian said, before adding later: “I'm not interested because I don't have the money to buy.”
Those days are gone at Stamford Bridge now austerity is hitting home. Gerrard turned down Chelsea five years ago, and the champions are spending their time rejuvenating their squad.
What's more, if there's one player likely to move from Anfield to Chelsea in the near future it will be striker Fernando Torres rather than the club's phenomenal midfielder.
So when Ancelotti spoke yesterday of his desire to manage Gerrard one day, it was perhaps more with an eye on the England manager's job than the opening to another prolonged transfer saga.
Ancelotti, whose team visit Anfield tomorrow, holds Gerrard in the very highest esteem, and he considers him to be a player without peer in the modern game.
“Obviously he's one of the best players in the world and I'd like to manage him one time in the future,” Ancelotti said.
“If you can manage the best players, it's easier to win. I don't know him as a person. I think he's a good man. But the reason I would like to manage him is because I've managed a lot of fantastic players, and he's one of the best players.
“In Italy, when I played, there were players like (Giancarlo) Antognoni at Fiorentina, Rainer Bonhof in Germany. Today, Gerrard. Full stop.”
In addition, the Italian insisted playing both Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same team should not be a problem.
“Obviously they can play together if the shape is good for them,” Ancelotti said. “Lampard has to play as he plays with us, on the left. And Gerrard can play in every position on the pitch in midfield.”
Tomorrow's trip to Liverpool leaves the Chelsea manager with a feeling of unfinished business, and a grudge that dates back to 1984, when an injured Ancelotti watched from the stands in Rome's Olympic Stadium as his Roma team-mates lost the European Cup final to Joe Fagan's Liverpool team on penalties.
He was to suffer again in the 2005 Champions League final, when Gerrard inspired Liverpool's miraculous comeback from 3-0 at half time to beat Ancelotti's AC Milan on penalties, and Jerzy Dudek mimicked Bruce Grobelaar's 1984 wobbly leg antics during the shootout.
The Italian grabbed some revenge in 2007, when Milan beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final in Athens.