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De Laurentiis switches tack, showers Sarri with love after latest Chelsea rumors

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Chelsea-linked Napoli head coach staying in the headlines

SSC Napoli v OGC Nice Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is the star of his own reality show and he doesn’t want to share the billing. How else to explain the good cop/bad cop routine he’s pulling on his coach, Maurizio Sarri? In the movies, good cop/bad cop takes two actors, one for each role. In Napoli, it’s all De Laurentiis. He’s playing both parts and once again he seems to be relishing the spotlight (as befits a man who owns his own movie production company and is a nephew of famed producer Dino De Laurentiis).

If you were out getting popcorn and missed the start of the show, here’s a quick recap. Sarri — or Sarri’s agent, more accurately — let it be known that the Napoli manager was unhappy with his contract, has a buyout that’s valid through May and was open for business. That was swiftly followed by reports that Chelsea were interested, which we probably are.

De Laurentiiis likes messing with other people (as we saw in the infamous Koulibaly episode of the De Laurentiis dramedy All About Me) but he doesn’t like other people messing with him. So he wrote a bad cop part for himself and summoned the media. He accused Sarri of bungling squad rotation, not winning any cups and generally portraying himself as a victim.

Perhaps recognizing that this wasn’t the best negotiating tactic if he wanted to keep Sarri, De Laurentiiis has now switched roles and this week he’s playing the good cop. Naturally, he still found a way to make it all about himself.

It should be noted that this also comes on the heels of fresh speculation surrounding the head coaching position at Chelsea. It may or may not be Sarri who eventually lands that job, but it most likely won’t be Conte in the Blues dugout next season.

“Will Sarri be here for pre-season? I hope so. I clearly have fewer doubts than you if you’re asking that question, but I can’t hold anyone by force. We have an appointment next week. Now we have to prepare for the away game [with Sampdoria], there’s travel and not much time.

”That’s why we’ve got an appointment for next week. But don’t worry, I’m calm. Is he the right coach? I chose him myself, against most people’s advice.”

Of course you did, ADL. You also publicly berated him. Those are comments which he’s now trying to walk back, like a good cop would.

“Relationships are always about give and take, it’s never one-sided. I don’t think we can complain about the football story of the past three years, he’s built a nice style, hailed by everyone abroad.”

Well, from over here it looks a great deal like De Laurentiiis is the one doing all the giving and Sarri is having to take it. To his credit, the head coach is doing so responsibly, refusing the offer of a speaking part in the latest production. So De Laurentiiis decided to take that role too, laying it on pretty thick. (And concluding with the funniest line of the week, possibly the year. This is not a man blessed with a sense of irony.)

“There are many who would like to imitate him but it’s really difficult, so we’re all grateful. Does Sarri want to leave? You don’t know Sarri, he’s devoted to his work and nothing else.

“It’s even difficult for his family to talk to him, so I try to interfere as little as possible.”

-Aurelio De Laurentiis; source: Football.London

A week from Sunday we’ll know if Conte is still the man, or if Chelsea will once again be shopping for a new head coach. Luis Enrique may or may not be the favorite, along with Sarri, Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim and... well, there are suggestions that Chelsea are casting their net further afield than usual, and may snag a lesser-known but promising talent.

It’s our own reality show, now in its 15th season and still going strong.