The volume of rumors in Italy linking Napoli head coach Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea continues to rise steadily.
Earlier this week, news broke that Chelsea would be willing to pay Sarri’s £8m release clause (and £500k early termination penalty), which is available until the end of the month. Then yesterday, the biggest Italian TV station, Rai was reportedly claiming that Sarri’s agents continue to be in constant contact with Chelsea, with earlier reports claiming that at least one meeting occurred between those agents and Chelsea intermediaries in London. A random talking head on another show (fine, let’s be generous and call him a journalist) then claimed that he’s talked to De Laurentiis and the Napoli owner is “85 per cent resigned” to having the release clause activated and if that happens, he won’t fight it. The same report asserts that while De Laurentiis praises Sarri’s work, he faults him for not winning cups.
That latter part was later confirmed straight from the horse’s mouth, with ADL dropping a few bombs in an interview with local paper Il Mattino. In part, he’s openly blaming Sarri for the lack of squad rotation scuppering their Scudetto challenge — a separate scouting report published by Football Italia yesterday calls it an “absurd” lack of rotation in fact.
“What I do believe is that at the start of the season we had to begin training early because we were in the Champions League preliminary round and we just ran out of fuel.
“It’s inevitable, unless of course you use all the players that you have in the squad…
“See, we could’ve had a breather at certain moments of the season, to better prepare the sprint finish. But if we always use the same players…
“Basically, if we hadn’t had injuries like the one to Faouzi Ghoulam, we’d never have discovered Mario Rui who, apart from the catastrophic errors against Roma, has been very good. But if you always use the same players…”
-Aurelio De Laurentiis; source: Il Mattino via Football Italia
And so on. Even in the outspoken world of Italian football, and especially with self-important, overbearing, blowhard owners like De Laurentiis, that doesn’t exactly come across as a winning negotiating strategy.
Yet, there are still fresh reports, which claim that Sarri is set to meet with the Partenopei supremo, who is now willing to triple his wages! Previous offers had fallen short of Sarri’s supposed demands, but triple his current wages would boost him to around £4.5m and above that request. Certainly Chelsea could at least that amount though when combined with Conte’s payoff and Sarri’s buyout, the investment might still be substantial enough to give Abramovich a bit of pause.
It is perhaps due to such potential reluctance that things are much quieter on the English side of issue. The most recent report in The Evening Standard confines itself to the salary talk, and that the relationship between club president and manager is tense at Napoli, just as it is at Chelsea. There’s no hint that Chelsea have actually made up their mind about whom they’ll hire if Antonio Conte is to indeed get the unceremonious boot after the full-time whistle at Wembley in the FA Cup final on May 19th.
So that gives us fifteen more days to ride the rumor roundabout before we finally find out what’s really going on behind the multiple smokescreens and agent talk. Or, if we’re lucky, this will drag on for much longer than that.