London: Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay admits he can't guarantee Carlo Ancelotti will still be manager of the Premier League club next season.
Ancelotti has come under pressure this season as Chelsea slumped out of the title race and suffered early exits from the FA Cup and League Cup. Less than 12 months after winning the league and FA Cup double, Chelsea are in a fight to ensure they finish in the top four.
Previous Chelsea managers were sacked for less and Ancelotti has admitted he needs a long run in the Champions League - the Blues play Manchester United in the last eight - to keep his job.
Gourlay insisted Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich remained happy with Ancelotti's achievements and understood the league title could not be won every year.
But, when asked directly if Ancelotti would stay on, Gourlay would only give a guarded response.
"All you can say is that Carlo has a contract with the club until 2012," he said on Radio Five Live's Sportsweek.
"We're delighted with Carlo and what he's achieved so far. These things can be pretty fickle. Carlo has come in and won the double last season.
"Yes, the expectations are high, but they are high at many clubs around Europe and we've got to be realistic. Let's see where we are at the end of May."
Gourlay did give an endorsement of Ancelotti's qualities as a manager which suggested the Italian still has every chance of staying on if he can finish the season strongly.
"Carlos is a world class coach," he said. "You look at his record and it speaks for itself. His record at Chelsea in a short time, winning the double in the first season in a new league, coming out of Italy, is a great feat.
"This is a strong, competitive league, but his knowledge of the game is second to none and he holds a dressing room well.
"He's won the Champions League twice as a coach and twice as a player so he's been there and done it.
"We understand it is very, very difficult to win trophies every year. What's very important for this club is to be competiting for trophies in the latter stages of every competition."
Gourlay did not offer specific targets for Chelsea to meet over the remainder of this season, but winning the Champions League would go a long way to securing Ancelotti's future.
"We're realistic," he said. "You can't win the double, you can't win the treble every year. But we want to see progress in the club every year.
"All I can say is that Carlo has a contract until 2012. We were delighted with last season, and we're happy with the way it's going this season.
"We're coming to the sharp end now, we've got 10 games left in the league and we have a fantastic draw (against Manchester United) in the Champions League.
"Our expectations are high and we've got to keep driving the club forward."
Gourlay also said owner Abramovich's commitment to the club is as strong as ever, as highlighted by his investment of £70 million in Fernando Torres and David Luiz in January.
"Roman is fabulous in his support," Gourlay said. "He likes to be involved in the process, he likes to understand our decision-making and process and, to be honest, that's the best way for the club to move forward."