The lines have been drawn, the trenches dug and the artillery has begun firing in Chelsea’s standoff with Napoli over the near-term future of Maurizio Sarri. The two sides appear to be unmovable, but it looks like Napoli hold all the aces. They control Sarri’s contract, they can afford to keep paying two coaches and anyway, Aurelio de Laurentiis has never been above antagonism just for the fun of it.
But it doesn’t mean that Chelsea are powerless. Hey Aurelio, how do you fancy shelling-out €1.5m next season and get nothing but cruel satisfaction for your money, because nobody hires Sarri? Chelsea just raised that specter with this little tidbit, conveniently floated either by the club or by Sarri’s agent, Alessandro Pellegrini.
EXPRESS Chelsea news: Maurizio Sarri agent rushing to meet deadline as Blues eye Laurent Blanc— Chelsea FC RSS Feeds (@CFCrss) May 29, 2018
CHELSEA are on the verge of ending their interest in Maurizio Sarri and could move for Laurent Blanc instead, claim reports in Italy. https://t.co/WOW7sQNFfk
The Italian source of the Blanc rumor is journalist/agent (sounds legit!) Bruno Galvàn, writing for CalcioNapoli24 (sounds even more legit!) and claiming that “late in the morning, Laurent Blanc’s name is being mentioned in connection with Chelsea and could be Abramovich’s ready replacement for Antonio Conte.” That ... actually doesn’t sound completely illegit.
Per @CalcioNapoli24— Bruno Galvàn (@BrunoGalvan85) May 29, 2018
ESCLUSIVA - Sarri-Chelsea, ancora tutto in stand by a 48 ore dalla scadenza clausola: nessuna offerta per liberarlo dal Napoli. C'è il rischio concreto che possa restare fermo - https://t.co/sC20DIDaTV
Blanc’s name doesn’t come completely out of the blue. There have been rumors for at least the past few weeks that Chelsea have talked to him and he’s seemingly always among the standard set of names mentioned for any managerial vacancy at Stamford Bridge.
Nor is Blanc an unreasonable candidate. He may be an uninspiring choice, but he’s not exactly a failure. He took Bordeaux to the Ligue 1 title in 2008-09, he managed France through the fallout from the player rebellion during the 2010 World Cup, eventually leading them to the quarter-finals of the 2012 Euro, where Spain beat them. From there he managed PSG, where he won the league in all three of his seasons, achieved the domestic treble twice in a row and was fired because he couldn’t advance further than the quarter finals in the Champions League. (Incidentally, his replacement, the now Arsenal boss Unai Emery, couldn’t even make it that far. Over to you, Thomas Tuchel.)
But Blanc’s real value to Chelsea might — just might — not lie in his actual ability, but in his credibility as bargaining leverage. Because if De Laurentiis is convinced that Chelsea really might be serious about hiring Le Président (the nickname given him by Marseille fans during his playing days) then he might be willing to retreat from insisting on Maurizio Sarri’s full €8m buyout.