After months of speculation, Maurizio Sarri joined Chelsea back in July — alongside Jorginho, which, by contrast, was a massive surprise — and the rumour mill subsequently (and unsurprisingly) began to link any half-decent player in Italy with a flashy move to London. Almost the entire Napoli squad was rumoured to join up with their former coach at one point or another, though ultimately only Jorginho ended up moving to Stamford Bridge.
One of the players rumoured to do so was Napoli full back Elseid Hysaj and, unlike most of the other random reports, it seemed as if there was actually some substance to the story. A gentlemen’s agreement — a “non-belligerence” clause — struck as part of the Sarri negotiations with Napoli (who had held his contract even after appointing Carlo Ancelotti) appeared to be the main stumbling block. That sounded a bit far-fetched even though we were dealing with Aurelio De Laurentiis, but it has now been confirmed by Hysaj’s agent.
“Those who criticise him probably never make mistakes, but the rest of us are mere mortals. Without that clause he probably would have gone to Chelsea this summer. People forget that he was one of the best two or three full-backs in Europe last season. Then it just takes two or three matches for him to become a donkey. I always say to let everyone talk and then respond on the pitch.”
-Mario Giuffredi, source: Radio Kiss Kiss via Goal
The 24-year-old Hysaj had followed Sarri from Empoli to Napoli and in the process had become one of the highest rated full backs in the Serie A. He’s not had the best start to the season under Ancelotti however, prompting his agent to go on radio and defend him ... though revealing that Hysaj would’ve probably left the team this summer were it not for ADL’s shenanigans seems like a poor way to try to inspire confidence in him from the fans and the head coach.
Chelsea’s interest in Hysaj was certainly not unexpected, even without Sarri’s arrival. Zappacosta had a fairly unimpressive first season under Conte, while January singing Emerson had hardly featured. And sure enough, while Zappacosta had a decent preseason with Sarri, he has not kicked on from there, while Emerson had fallen completely off the radar before rotating in for Alonso a couple times over the past few weeks. Hysaj is capable of playing either side and would’ve certainly challenged for a starting spot at either as well — questions do remain of Alonso’s defensive nous while right back is Azpilicueta’s worst position out of the three that he’s played in his Chelsea career. Then again, it’s tough to imagine a Chelsea lineup without Dave in it.
With Alonso ready to sign a new contract and Azpilicueta possibly getting named captain (and then presumably also signing a new contract), somebody like Hysaj would still be a fantastic addition. Wonder how long this clause is supposed to last?