Sarri to Chelsea: moves for Hazard, Willian, Kante, Jorginho and Higuain?
The Blues want to keep unsettled stars and bring in new talent after the sacking of Antonio Conte
As expected Antonio Conte has left Chelsea and is set to be replaced by fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri.
Conte’s departure may not have come as a surprise but the manner of his exit was brutal. “Chelsea sacked Conte and almost his entire staff at the club’s Cobham training ground after the Italian took a morning session on Thursday, with Sarri now on the brink of taking over,” reports Matt Law of The Daily Telegraph.
Conte won the Premier League and FA Cup during his two seasons at Stamford Bridge, but his relationship with the club collapsed last season.
“He fell out with Diego Costa and infamously sent him a text saying he had no future at the club and he would have frozen out David Luiz, Willian and others had he stayed,” says Law. “Chelsea have also been worried that Eden Hazard would seek to leave if Conte saw out his contract.
“That ultimately convinced owner Roman Abramovich that he could not risk the squad imploding and work has been going on behind the scenes to secure Conte’s replacement.”
Former Napoli manager Sarri is now poised to take over, but his arrival could also have significant repercussions for the Blues in what is a turbulent summer.
His first job will be to talk round several of Chelsea’s top stars who have been linked with a move away from west London.
Ins and outs at Stamford Bridge
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois
“Chelsea’s top brass are convinced the change in manager will bring peace to a dressing room where senior players are unhappy with Conte’s abrasive personality,” says The Sun.
“Midfielder Hazard has two years left on his £200,000-a-week contract and keeper Courtois has just 12 months to run. Both Belgians have been sending out signals for months that they could be persuaded to leave Stamford Bridge.”
The club hope Sarri will persuade the pair to stay, but with Hazard attracting big money interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona the new manager may have his work cut out with the Belgian playmaker in particular.
One player Sarri may not arrive in time to placate is Brazilian midfielder Willian. The 29-year-old has been linked with a reunion with former boss Jose Mourinho at Manchester United but Barcelona could be a more likely destination.
According to the Daily Mail the Spanish club “have tabled a £55m offer for the player with a further £5m in add-ons”, and that is sure to “test Chelsea’s resolve”.
The Blues are facing a “transfer nightmare” this summer, says the Daily Star, with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain also circling N’Golo Kante.
The paper picks up on reports in Italy that claim “Barcelona have made France international Kante one of their top priorities this summer”, with the Spanish club prepared to offer Andre Gomes as part of the deal.
Kante’s potential departure only adds to Chelsea’s “wild week”, says the paper. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the Blues hope that Sarri will be able to kick-start Chelsea’s summer transfer activity, and there are several big-name players now being linked with Stamford Bridge.
The Brazil-born Italian prospered under Sarri’s leadership at Napoli and is expected to arrive at Stamford Bridge with his former manager within days.
The London Evening Standard says the 26-year-old was due to undergo a medical ahead of the £57.4m deal this week.
“Jorginho has already agreed a five-year contract worth up to £102,000 a week,” adds the paper.
But there is a caveat. “Napoli president [Aurelio] De Laurentiis will not let the move go ahead until he has assurances none of the club’s other top talent will move to Stamford Bridge while Sarri is there,” explains the Standard.
Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly
Napoli’s demand that Chelsea back away from their players may be designed to prevent the Blues from moving for Belgian midfielder Dries Mertens and Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly, a long-term target for the club. Both players are named as Chelsea summer targets by the Daily Express.
Higuain in, Morata out?
Reports in Italy are linking Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain with a €55m (£48.6m) move to Stamford Bridge this summer. The Argentine forward is reportedly surplus to requirements in Turin after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, and at present Chelsea are the only club interested in signing him, reports the Read Chelsea website.
“The forward worked with Maurizio Sarri, who is expected to take over at Stamford Bridge imminently, at Napoli and the pair have a strong relationship.
“Should Higuain join Chelsea this summer, his arrival is likely to cast an end to Alvaro Morata’s time at the club with a move back to Italy looking likely.”
Another Juventus player who has strong links to Sarri, Rugani has been touted as a replacement for David Luiz, whose days at Stamford Bridge appear numbered.
Rugani, 23, played under Sarri at Empoli before moving to Juventus and the coach has earmarked him as a potential recruit for the Blues. Earlier this week the Daily Mirror claimed a £35m deal was in the pipeline.