I remember when I first heard Carlo’s name linked with Chelsea, in the period after Guus Hiddink left the club. I’d never met him before, but I’d seen his teams play. First, when he was manager at Juventus and they played Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League semi final. Then at Milan, where he had so much success – particularly in the Champions League.
Different names had been spoken about as replacements for Guus, but when I heard Carlo’s I thought: how amazing would it be for someone with his experience to come to our club and potentially give me the opportunity to watch and learn?
I was the reserve team coach at the time, but Guus had given me a taste of working at first-team level during his four months at Chelsea. It was a brilliant experience, but when he left all my thoughts were that I’d go back to my role with the reserve team. It didn’t stay that way for long.
Carlo came to the club with one assistant whose strengths were really in sports psychology, and Ray Wilkins stayed on as assistant manager. But he needed one more coach in his team.
“He learnt English, French, Spanish and now German, all in his 50s. He knew how important communication was to being a manager”
Frank Arnesen was Chelsea’s sporting director at the time, and I’d worked closely with him in the academy. It was he who put me forward for the role.
“Why don’t you have a look at Paul? He’s been here for the past four years and has some skills that could possibly help you.”
For the first two weeks, it was like I was on trial. I went with Carlo and the first team to the US on tour, but when we got back I told him I felt it was probably best if I went back to work with the reserve team.
“No, no. The best experience for you would be to come and work with me. We’ll be successful. You’ll enjoy it.”
There was no turning down that opportunity.