LONDON • Maurizio Sarri is set to be confirmed as Chelsea's new manager after Antonio Conte was finally relieved of his duties after two increasingly fractious years in charge at Stamford Bridge.
Conte, who won the Premier League and an FA Cup in his two seasons at the club, had been anticipating the axe all summer.
But, with Chelsea's talks over the compensation due to Napoli to secure Sarri having proved complicated, he had returned to his office at Cobham last weekend.
He even took training yesterday morning before, with the players sent home for the afternoon, confirmation came of his sacking.
The Italian still had a year to run on a £9 million-a-season (S$16 million) deal, renegotiated last summer in the wake of the league championship triumph, and will be due a hefty payout.
Conte is likely to take a sabbatical while he considers his next move. It remains to be seen whether Chelsea can strike an agreement to compensate the 47-year-old across the remainder of his deal, though that is unlikely to be easy.
Relations with the Chelsea hierarchy had always been difficult but deteriorated markedly over a difficult second season with regular disagreements over transfer policy.
He wanted a greater say over recruitment, and would have sought a radical overhaul of the playing squad this summer after last term's disappointing fifth-place finish.
Players such as David Luiz and Willian would have been moved on, though Chelsea were also concerned Eden Hazard might opt against signing a new long-term contract with him still at the helm.
Sarri, who led Napoli to second place in Serie A last season, is expected to be confirmed as Conte's replacement imminently, with progress having been made between his lawyers and those representing Napoli and Chelsea in the past 48 hours.
He had been replaced in Naples by Carlo Ancelotti but not released from his contract, forcing the London club to pay a fee to secure him.
Chelsea are likely to pay around £50 million, with further fees due in bonuses, to secure Italy midfielder Jorginho and Sarri.
Jorginho's arrival will belatedly kick-start the club's summer transfer business, with Daniele Rugani (from Juventus) and Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moscow) to follow.
Thibaut Courtois is expected to depart, having entered the final year of his contract, forcing Chelsea to consider a move for Roma's Brazil goalkeeper Alisson.