Antonio Conte is to be sacked as Chelsea manager within days and former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri installed as his replacement according to British media reports on Thursday.
Conte is presently on holiday but is to be told he is no longer needed despite winning the FA Cup last season — to add to the league title he won in his first season in charge — and issuing a defiant message afterwards of how he wouldn’t change his style of management.
Sarri, a former banker, has been linked with the post even before the 59-year-old stepped down from the Napoli hotseat after guiding them to runners-up spot behind Juventus for the second time in three campaigns.
Both men will cost Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Conte will be due £9million ($11.8million) if he doesn’t take another job in the next year and Napoli will be due a payment for Sarri as he is still under contract with them, even though Carlo Ancelotti — who knows how swiftly Abramovich forgets past glories as he was sacked a season after guiding them to the domestic double — has replaced him.
Despite no official confirmation from the club The London Evening Standard and The Sun report Sarri is already building up his backroom staff.
Giovanni Martusciello — who he worked with at Empoli — will be lured away from Inter Milan whilst former Chelsea favourite Gianfranco Zola, whose managerial career has not been a success, will also be part of the coaching staff.
Martusciello has been overseeing long term strategy and developing young talent at Inter Milan.
Napoli’s Senegalese international centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly certainly believes Sarri is headed to Chelsea as he told English radio station talkSPORT after his country’s opening 2-1 victory over Poland in the World Cup.
“They (Chelsea) can expect nice football because he is a very good coach,” said Koulibaly.
“I’m disappointed that he leaves like this but we have now a big coach (Carlo Ancelotti). We know we can win something with him.
“I hope he will win something with Chelsea because he’s a nice coach.”
The polish on Conte’s tenure at Chelsea has become tarnished both at boardroom level and amongst his players.
He has been damaged by a fifth-placed finish — which saw them fall short of qualifying for the Champions League — just a year after winning the league and his constant refrain of the best players being sold and not replaced like for like did not go down well.
There have also been reports that several senior players are unhappy with his demanding training regime.
Two of their best players Belgian duo playmaker Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibault Courtois have also urged that Conte’s future be sorted and players brought in before their rivals steal a march on them in the transfer market as they did last year.
Muddying the waters further is that both Hazard and Courtois have just two years and one year remaining on their contracts respectively and are being strongly linked with moves to Spain.
Sarri has already told the Chelsea board in their talks that top of his list to buy are Inter Milan’s Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino and Spanish winger Jose Callejon from Napoli.