Sarri keen to 'improve' Hazard, but bored by transfer talk

Chelsea's new manager, Maurizio Sarri, holds up a team shirt during his unveiling at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Former Chelsea and Italy striker Gianfranco Zola has been appointed his assistant.
Chelsea's new manager, Maurizio Sarri, holds up a team shirt during his unveiling at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Former Chelsea and Italy striker Gianfranco Zola has been appointed his assistant.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The futures of Belgian star duo Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois can be decided by the Chelsea board, said the club's new manager Maurizio Sarri.

The 59-year-old Italian, speaking at his unveiling on Wednesday after being appointed the successor to sacked compatriot Antonio Conte, admitted to being disinterested in the transfer market.

This will be music to the board's ears as one of the reasons Conte fell out with them was his carping over a lack of input into buying new players.

Hazard and Courtois both shone at the World Cup - the latter winning the Golden Glove for goalkeeper of the tournament as Belgium finished third - but with their contracts running down, they have been linked with moves to Spanish LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

Sarri, who guided Napoli to runner-up finishes twice in Serie A and third in his other season, did however say that it would be better to keep the best players.

He also said that he would like to "improve" Hazard, should the 27-year-old stay.

"Clearly we would always like to keep all the strongest players," said Sarri, who began in English but switched to his native Italian so that he would not "say anything wrong".

"This is what any manager wants to do. Then we will have to see how the transfer market goes over the next few days.

"But I think that I am one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don't want to talk about the transfer market and I'm not that interested in it."

Sarri also used the word "fun" 11 times in less than 30 minutes during his press conference to describe his methods and his ambitions.

  • Fun 

    Maurizio Sarri's buzzword which he used 11 times in less than 30 minutes at his first press conference.

Comparatively, the buzzword at Conte's first press conference two years ago was "work".

"My goal is to have fun as long as I am here and be competitive in all competitions," Sarri said.

"In life, the biggest gift you may receive is to have fun while you do your job. Ours is not a sport, but a game, and anybody who plays a game starts doing that when they are young, because it is fun.

"The child in each of us must be nurtured because this often makes us the best. Our task as managers is about growing the players we have."

Following Sarri's appointment, midfielder Jorginho has joined Chelsea from Napoli for around £57 million (S$101.6 million) on a five-year deal.

Former Chelsea forward and Italian Gianfranco Zola was named as assistant coach to Sarri, marking a return to the club where he spent seven years as a player.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Sarri keen to 'improve' Hazard, but bored by transfer talk'. Print Edition | Subscribe