BY PAUL LAGAN
Crisis club Chelsea are believed to have finally decided who they want to replace Antonio Conte, who is widely expected to be sacked by the club.
It’s Maurizio Sarri who is still technically contracted as Napoli’s boss.
A host of big names have been bandied about starting with ex-Barcelona man Luis Enrique and more recently ex-Paris St Germain coach Laurent Blanc, to replace Conte, who in two years at the club won a Premier League title and the FA Cup.
But Sarri, has re-emerged as favourite. He was replaced by former Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti last month. Chelsea are hoping he and Napoli will have sorted out compensation and that they won’t have to stump up any cash to land the 59-year-old former banker.
It will cost Chelsea £9million to release Conte and his backroom staff from their contracts.
Italian Sarri is hoping to bring in his own backroom staff and several players such as striker Gonzalo Higuain and central defender Kalidou Koulibaly – two players the Blues had tried to land last summer but were blocked by Sarri.
If Chelsea sign him, it will start to end a fortnight of confusion for the Chelsea faithful about the direction the club was taking.
They have seen uncertainty over the ownership of Chelsea which saw Roman Abramovich taking the critical decision to halt the proposed redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, which had passed almost every obstacle to it’s going ahead.
Questions surrounding a delay in his visa application, then saw the Russian fly to Israel and secure Israeli citizenship. While that allows him visa-free access to the UK, he won’t be allowed to work here. Anglo-Russian relations at Government level are a low and this has created a climate where it’s reported that Britain’s wealthiest man Jim Ratcliffe, who founded chemical firm Ineos, and with an wealth estimated at£21billion, made a £2billion offer to Abramovich to buy Chelsea FC.
That offer is believed to have been rebuffed – but pressure is mounting on Abramovich to act quickly to restore order at the club.
While political shenanigans continue to run freely in SW6, Chelsea players are still plying their trade for their countries as they prepare for the World Cup which starts on Thursday.
Cary Cahill completed his preparations with a substitute outing for England against Nigeria last week, which also saw Ruben Loftus-Cheek continue his fledgling England career. Meanwhile at the weekend, striker Oliver Giroud was in action alongside N’Golo Kante for France and they drew 1-1 against the USA.
In Denmark, Andreas Christensen played the full match as Denmark defeated Mexico 2-0.
Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham, Jake Clarke-Salter and Jay Dasilva started for the England U-21s as they defeated Mexico 2-1 to win the Toulon tournament.
While the men have yet to sign a player, Emma Haye’s women’s side have made their first – Australian Lizzie Duracell – a 24-year-old goalkeeper who has put pen to paper after leaving Everton.
She said: said: ‘It’s unbelievably exciting. For a while now, Chelsea have been a team everyone in the country and in Europe has really looked up to, so to have the opportunity to be a part of that is so awesome.
“First off, I want to help build on what is already a really strong goalkeepers’ group, and in turn help the team continue to be so successful.”
Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, Millie Bright and Carly Telford were the England spine in a 3-1 win over Russia on Friday evening that returned the Lionesses to the top of Group A as they edge another step closer to qualification for next year’s World Cup in France.
The trio played the full 90 minutes in a dominate display which saw Jill Scott net a brace with Nikita Parris notching the third.
Chelsea men have released the following players: Mitchell Beeney, Issac Christie-Davies, Cole Dasilva, Matej Delac, Eduardo, Jordan Houghton, Renedi Masampu, Wallace Oliveira Dos Santos and Tushaun-Tyreese Walters.