Amidst all the drama of managerial merry-go round across Europe, it’s easy to forget that the main purpose of the transfer window is to acquire players, not just managers. Merely getting a new manager or deciding to keep the old one is not enough.
Whether it’s Conte or Sarri or whoever in charge next season, they will all have a few targets in mind for the venerable Chelsea board to acquire for them. According to Evening Standard’s Simon Johnson, Sarri has already made his mind up regarding the players he’d like to target. As anticipated, all of them are from Napoli — is there any story older than “new manager signs with new club and wants to raid old team for players?” — right-back Elseid Hysaj, midfielders Piortr Zielinski and Jorginho, as well as centre-backs Raúl Albiol and... Kalidou Koulibaly.
No summer transfer window is complete without Chelsea getting linked with Koulibaly.
2.27 - Maurizio #Sarri picked up 2.27 points per game as Napoli manager, the highest average for an Azzurri's manager in their Serie A history. Sarrismo. pic.twitter.com/4ZipDJm28E— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 23, 2018
Out of the five players who are Sarri’s supposed favourites, three (Hysaj, Zielinski and Albiol), have release clauses of £44 million, £57 million and £5.2 million, respectively. Considering how the relationship between Sarri and Aurelio De Laurentiis took a turn for the worse this summer, getting even a single player — let alone multiple — from Napoli will be extremely difficult. Thus, the release clauses are sure going to come in handy provided we decide to listen to our manager, for once. (That Albiol’s release clause is barely enough to tip the waiter should tell you how smart listening to Sarri would be.) Those three names have also been floated in Italian reports this morning as potential singings.
However, as per the Standard, Chelsea’s board has their own list of targets that they would like to acquire — this is after all how Chelsea tend to operate. The list includes names such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey, Watford’s Richarlison and Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles. Chelsea has been linked with all of these names at some or the other point of last season, although Lascelles recently declared his undying love for Newcastle and half of Europe are after Bailey, including Bayern who tend to hoover up all the good available transfer targets in Germany.
Leon Bailey in the Bundesliga this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 17, 2018
48 chances created
Lighting up Leverkusen's left. pic.twitter.com/c4pWa4ovlT
The current narrative claims Sarri loves to work with what he has got, and that is indeed true. But it doesn’t mean he won’t want any new players. In his first season in charge of Napoli, six players were brought in: Pepe Reina, Vlad Chiriches, Allan, Elseid Hysaj, Marko Valdifiori and Raffaele Maiello. Four of these six players are still at Napoli while Reina, Allan and Hysaj were important starters for them last season.
In fact, Hysaj and Zielinski had played under Sarri at Empoli as well. Thus, Sarri targeting his old players is nothing new. And considering how unique and particular his system is, it makes a whole lot of sense for him to want players who already understand it, thereby making the transition process at his new club as smooth as possible.
Unfortunately, De Laurentiis is certainly not going to allow Chelsea to buy any of these players easily. Besides, Koulibaly would be extremely expensive (and an annoying re-run of the last couple summers) and Chelsea would face tough competition for Jorginho from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Out of the three players who do have release clauses, Hysaj and Zielinski’s fees are quite high while Albiol is 32 years old. Not to mention the fact that Hysaj’s agent has explicitly stated that his client will stay at Napoli with or without Sarri.
Ag Hysaj: "Hysaj will stay at Napoli with or without Sarri. We'd be happy if the Coach stays, but we're certain with De Laurentiis, the team will remain strong. Obviously it would be great to continue with Maurizio, but Elseid wants to stay regardless".— Everything Napoli (@NaplesAndNapoli) May 16, 2018
It should be noted that at the moment, no one’s exactly sure what Chelsea’s operating model is or will be when it comes to transfers, or even who might be in charge of what as we had into the summer. But the reality of modern football is that managers do not last for too long; fully reshaping the squad to the whims of every new head coach is simply not realistic. Sarri or Conte or whoever else will just have to work with what he finds here and the few summer signings that are sure to be made.