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Chelsea could be competing with Zenit to sign Sarri, and time is running out

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In talks, buyout clause set to expire

ACF Fiorentina v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri is suddenly a man is demand. And the clock is ticking.

On Sunday we reported that Sarri was ready to move on from working in Italy, and that Napoli president Aurelio de Lauentiis had (sort of) washed his hands off him.

Today, Italian journalist Alfredo Pedullà is reporting that Chelsea are in direct contact with Sarri. Presumably, they’re talking over the terms of a contract. The pressure’s on, since he has a buyout clause that expires either on May 31st (per the local Napoli daily newspaper Il Mattino) or at the end of the day, May 22nd (per Sky Italia.) If it’s the latter date, then minds will have to be made up quickly.

Adding to the urgency for Chelsea is a new report that Zenit St. Petersburg have muscled into the picture with a concrete offer.

Sarri’s agent has shot down the report of a definitive offer from Zenit. What he doesn’t shoot down is that he’s talking with other clubs.

“We haven’t received any offers from Chelsea, Tottenham, Milan or Zenit.”

-Alessandro Pellegrini; source: Sport Express via Football Italia

If the issue is money, then Chelsea can comfortably top Zenit’s reported offer. They might not offer him Conte money, which is a currently a touch over £9 million a year. But they can certainly top €4 million, which is £3.5 million. Of course, complicating things for Chelsea is the cost of buying out Conte and his entire staff, a tally that’s probably north of £10m in total.

Overshadowing it all is that buyout clause. If it expires without Sarri reaching a deal with either Zenit or Chelsea, then he’ll be stuck with Aurelio de Laurentiis until the end of his contract, through the 2020 season. By that time the market for managers will have changed. This might be his best opportunity to cash in, to make big money for the first time in his career and, if he chooses Chelsea, to join a club that demands a regular supply of trophies in exchange for its largesse.