The Maurizio Sarri experiment at Stamford Bridge may not last longer than one season, especially if he’s unable to deliver the minimum expectations of a top four finish or a Europa League triumph. But even if Chelsea do squeak into next season’s Champions League, the Sarri-ball Experience has left many fans cold — the Mail pointed out gleefully yesterday that hundreds of season tickets have gone up for resale on the club’s ticket exchange in the last couple days, but that sort of thing has been going on all season (it goes on for most games, but this season it’s been noticeably more common). And while Chelsea’s season is far from unsalvageable, the narrative is increasingly trending towards a summer exit for the old man.
So, speculation is slowly growing, especially in the general ennui and football-vacuum of an international break, and the tabloids (The Sun, Mirror, etc) have even offered a new name to go along with the usual leading replacement candidates of Steve Holland (interim) and Frank Lampard (permanent). That new name is none other than the magnificently bearded Nuno Espirito Santo, formerly of Porto and now of Wolverhampton Wanderers. The bookies are lagging a bit behind, so he’s not been made the favorite yet, but give it some time. Mendes-situation aside, he seems a perfect candidate.
Nuno, a career backup goalkeeper, used to play for Porto, for José Mourinho in fact, who once compared him to Portuguese royalty in terms of his strength, presence, control, and ability to take care of business. Nuno has modeled his own managerial methods on some of Mourinho’s methods from 15 years ago, and those are certainly the ones we’d prefer rather than the more recent versions.
“He knew how to take the best of each of us. Before [they are] players, they are human beings. You have to look at a player that you manage.
“First of all you have to know him. Then you have to know what moment of his life he is. If he is young, if he’s experienced. All these things require large knowledge of some emotional aspects. Because you cannot ask a player to do what you want and believe what is better for him and the team if he is not in the right mood. Before being a professional player you have to know he is a human being and a man with a family, a wife, a girlfriend, or has social problems, or whatever.
“This is one thing Mourinho did so well. He knows his players. And I am trying to do the same. [...] You have to be obsessed about getting your players do the best you can do.”
-Nuno Espirito Santo; source: Telegraph
Of course, this is all just speculation. Sarri has not been sacked, and doesn’t look like he will be sacked until the summer, if at all. But if he does in the end become the latest name to fall through the trapdoor, he just might find a soft landing back in Italy with AS Roma.
The Giallorossi recently sacked Eusebio Di Francesco and replaced him quickly with former boss Claudio Ranieri (recently sacked as well after just 17 games in charge of Fulham), but that may not be their permanent solution.
Sarri’s contract with Chelsea only ends in 2021. But if he fails to turn this season around, Chelsea should not offer much resistance to see him go (and let’s not have a repeat of last summer’s silly shenanigans with delays and withheld compensation and the like).