While Antonio Conte dangles in the wind, Chelsea seem to be slowly working their way towards hiring a new coach. According to multiple reports, the club’s powers that be spent most of today (Thursday) meeting with former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri’s representatives (but not Sarri himself). After a 7-hour marathon session, the outcome appears to be positive.
That’s according to Italian “transfer expert”, Alfredo Pedullà, who has been on the forefront of the Sarri reporting for the last few weeks. While Zenit St. Petersburg remain the only team to actually make an offer to the 59-year-old, Sarri seems to be inching closer to chain-smoking his cigarettes in Surrey air.
If the scuttlebutt is to be believed, a number of issues needed to be resolved before Chelsea would move forward with hiring their new Italian manager and sacking their old one. Among them were his problems with self-control and his €8 million buyout clause, as well hashing out the details of a contract. But if Pedullà’s report is accurate, it sounds like some of the heavy lifting, like the buyout*, may have been done on Thursday (probably without offering David Luiz in exchange, even), with the pesky details of a contract possibly to be ironed-out on Friday. It is expected to be only a 2-year deal, in line with modern trends of short-term contracts for easily sackable assets.
* Yes, Napoli hired Ancelotti but they haven’t officially sacked Sarri, whose contract expires in 2020. The release clause is valid until the end of May.
At the same time, there have been reports that Chelsea have been in talks with Conte (or his representatives). While we can’t know what they might have been discussing, it’s reasonable to assume that if Chelsea do indeed want to hire Sarri, then they might be trying to arrive at a slightly less punitive buyout figure for Conte (which, depending on which report you read, varies anywhere from £9m to €20m in total).
This has been an unusually protracted and indecisive managerial search for Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich era. But it may be that it’s finally drawing to a close.