Old lady catches Sarri's roving eye

Blues coach reveals intention to return to Italy after Italian champs Juve reportedly offer deal

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri's stint as Chelsea manager looks set to be cut short just days after he lifted the Europa League trophy, with the Italian holding talks with the club's hierarchy and making clear his desire to return to Italy's Serie A with Juventus.

He steered Chelsea to third place in the Premier League, secured Champions League qualification and claimed the first major silverware of his coaching career, courtesy of Wednesday's 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan after a tumultuous first campaign in English football.

However, despite having signed off at the Baku Olympic Stadium stressing his "love for the Premier League", it is understood Sarri met Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia on Friday and indicated his preference would be a return to Italy for family reasons, as well as the chance to coach Juventus.

His agent, Fali Ramadani, had flown to London from Milan earlier in the day to speak to his client before returning to Italy, where he remains in regular contact with the Serie A champions, who have apparently offered the former Napoli boss a contract through to 2022.

Despite the 60-year-old Sarri's position having been under serious scrutiny mid-season, when results deteriorated and his relationship with a vocal section of the club's support appeared to fracture beyond repair, Chelsea had no real desire to sack him this summer following the team's encouraging end to the campaign.

Reports yesterday, however, said that the club are "not likely to stand in his way" and have already a list of candidates to replace him should Juventus make a formal approach.

Chelsea are reportedly considering Massimiliano Allegri, who Sarri would replace in Turin, the former Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc, and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira as well.

The Blues also retain an interest in luring Frank Lampard and his assistant Jody Morris back to Stamford Bridge.

Lampard steered Derby County to the Championship play-off final in his first season as a manager, leaning heavily on the young Chelsea loanees Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori en route. He could find the chance to return to Stamford Bridge, where he won the league three times, an appealing one.

Chelsea also face a transfer ban next season which could restrict their attractiveness to any coach.

Granovskaia is now expected to speak to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, but the onus is very much on Juve to first make a formal approach for Sarri's services by buying out the remaining two years on his £5 million (S$8.7 million)-a-season contract.

There had been an option for a further 12 months on the deal he signed in London last summer.

Juventus, though, were reported in the media last week to be also interested in securing the signature of either Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, or Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, and that Sarri is in fact not their first choice.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 02, 2019, with the headline 'Old lady catches Sarri's roving eye'. Print Edition | Subscribe