As the football media at large continues to agree with themselves that Antonio Conte’s days at Chelsea are numbered — it’s a specific number at least, however many days it is to go until the end of the season — the names of potential replacements, Luis Enrique and Diego Simeone, have not really inspired great excitement. The latter due to his preferred style and methods, the former due to his perceived lack of quality despite success at Barcelona (how hard could that be, they say).
A potential candidate who not only ticks the “attacking football” checkbox but is also someone who grafted his way up the ranks towards greatness, proving himself at every station from non-league to Champions League (well, okay, not that part yet) is Maurizio Sarri, who has made Napoli into the neutral’s favorite once again after doing away with the Rafaluzione back in 2015. His up-tempo, quick-passing, possession-based and attack-oriented style is the style that most people love.
One of those people, if recent reports are to be believed is Roman Abramovich, and the Chelsea owner is apparently keeping a close eye on the 59-year-old’s contract situation down in Naples — Sarri may be a new kid on the European block, but he’s no spring chicken.
And that contract situation is certainly worth keeping an eye on if any club would want to entice Sarri away from Napoli, as starting yesterday, an €8m buyout clause is active through May 31st. While Napoli owner Aurelio Di Laurentiis has made it clear that he wants to renegotiate the contract and remove the clause “immediately” (and, presumably give a payrise, too), for now, the buyout is there and ready to be activated.
If that sounds to you like a story planted by an agent in today’s Gazzetta dello Sport, you’re probably not wrong. But whatever the origin of the rumor, the basic fact of the buyout seems to be anything but fake. So if Chelsea are indeed serious about replacing Conte, as the narrative wants us to believe, a potentially ideal replacement is just €8m away.