Midnight is the witching hour, the hour when Cinderella’s coach turns back into a pumpkin and also, we believe, the hour in the Central European Time Zone when Maurizio Sarri’s £7m (€8m) release clause expires.
There’s been a lot of speculation about what happens after that, most of it unfounded. Wild theories, like Sarri resigning and paying a €1.5m fine, seem to have come out of nowhere. A more rational explanation claims that Italian laws mean that as long as Napoli continue to pay Sarri his regular installments on a €1.5m per year contract (which doesn’t expire until 2020), the club still own his employment rights.
That certainly seems to be Napoli’s view, who have made it a point to continue demanding compensation for their former head coach, quite likely matching the value stipulated by said expiring buyout clause.
Aurelio de Laurentiis insisting on being paid for a coach who’s surplus to requirements (now that he’s signed Carlo Ancelotti) is entirely in keeping with his bare-knuckle approach to business. Frankly, given his nature, it seemed within the realm of possiblity that he’d demand even more than the £7m required to activate the release clause, once it expires.
Chelsea aren’t above some legal fisticuffs themselves, though. Sky Sports is reporting that Chelsea are considering filing a lawsuit against Napoli, or appealing to FIFA. For his part, Sarri himself is said to be considering a lawsuit demanding to be released from his contract.(EDIT: The Guardian reports that Sarri would make a case for constructive dismissal, given that somebody has been hired to fill the job he once held.)
€8m release clause in Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli contract expires today. Sarri contracted until 2020. If Chelsea want Sarri, Napoli want €8m. Sarri considering suing Napoli. Napoli considering suing Sarri. Already replaced by Ancelotti.— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) May 31, 2018
We don’t know what is settled law in this area and what isn’t. What is becoming painfully clear, however, is that if a deal isn’t struck by the witching hour of midnight, the drama over who will be Chelsea’s next head coach could be prolonged indefinitely, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.