bleacherreport: He rode a storm, qualified for the Champions League and is now aiming to lead Chelsea into the Europa League final. Yet still Maurizio Sarri’s future as manager is in the air.
Fans of the west London club have struggled to warm to the Italian boss. The slow progress of Sarri-ball, combined with too many dull performances, has led to fans calling for his head on more than one occasion.
Now he is being linked with the manager’s job at AS Roma, where the Italian club are making him their No. 1 target. Claudio Ranieri is currently in place as head coach but will step aside at the end of the season.
But now that Sarri has made some headway and helped turn around Chelsea’s season, is a move away from London still possible?
The 60-year-old signed a two-year contract with the option of a 12-month extension when he joined from Napoli last July.
Sources at the club are adamant they are not looking to get rid of him, despite the pressure he has come under at times this season. Yet the interest from Serie A does put a fresh twist on the situation.
Sarri has found some aspects of English life difficult to deal with and is understood to feel unfairly judged by the club’s fans. However, one source who has links to the Chelsea boss told B/R: “He has only thought about staying at Chelsea. He wants to improve next season, make sure they are in the title race. That has been his aim.”
Yet the fact that Roma are willing to match his £5 million-per-year Chelsea salary will surely prove tempting at a time when he is still struggling to win over Chelsea’s supporters.
Ideally, Roma want former Blues boss Antonio Conte, but he has other options, and Italian sources believe he is most likely to end up at Inter Milan.
The likelihood is that Sarri will have to resign if he is not happy with life in London.
Is Sarri’s Reputation Improving Among the Doubters?
Chelsea fans do not appear all that bothered by the possibility of Sarri leaving, despite an improved run in which they have lost just two of their last 18 games.
To everyone that was SarriOut & is now trying to demean Sarri’s role in getting CL qualification… stop.
To everyone that was SarriIn & is beating their chest boasting about how they backed him from Day 1… stop.
Unite & just enjoy this for CHELSEA.
— Alex Goldberg (@AlexGoldberg_) May 6, 2019
Gary Syrett, 36, a Stamford Bridge season ticket holder, explained how a hardcore of the club’s support have not been won over.
“I don’t think he has and it is due to his stubbornness throughout the season of playing the same formation, even when it clearly wasn’t working,” he explained. “The drubbing we got from Manchester City is a good example of that.
“Also, his reluctance to use the rising youth talent in our ranks has caused a lot of doubt as to whether he’s the man to take us forward. I think it’s a case of too much damage early on his reign for him to recover the majority of fans’ backing.”
The situation is not too dissimilar from when Rafael Benitez was in charge on a short-term deal six years ago. He led the club to the Europa League and a top-four position yet still could not stay.
It’s not just the fans who are frustrated by Sarri, though. Some figures in the Chelsea dressing room have been unconvinced about his tactical decisions and team line-ups.
As one Chelsea insider told B/R: “There are at least three regular first-team players that could look to move on this summer if he stays on. It’s nothing out of the ordinary but not everyone likes him.”
The Task Ahead at Chelsea
Matters are about to become very complicated. On Wednesday, the club discovered their appeal against a two-window FIFA transfer ban had been unsuccessful. They will now take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in hope the suspension will be frozen.
On top of that, it seems almost certain that star player Eden Hazard will leave for Real Madrid.
It is believed Chelsea do not want to add a new manager to their list of issues, but that does not mean they have not considered a future without him.
Chants of “F–k Sarri-ball” have been heard regularly at Stamford Bridge, and in February, there was a genuine feeling among some staff members that he was on the verge of losing his job.
What Happens if Sarri Leaves?
Steve Holland, a former coach at Chelsea and now Gareth Southgate’s deputy with the England national team, is understood to have been sounded out about the prospect of filling in on a temporary basis earlier in the season.
It is unlikely he would be approached about a longer-term role if Sarri did decide to push for the Roma job, but there are other names who are being mentioned around Stamford Bridge.
Ajax’s Erik ten Hag will emerge as a contender if Sarri does depart, after becoming one of the most sought-after managers in European football, having taken Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals.
Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo has impressed too, taking them from the Championship to the brink of European qualification with a top-seven finish in the Premier League.
One sticking point there is that the Molineux side are ready to fend off any interest in their head coach by offering him a new, improved contract.
The club are also maintaining checks on the Derby management team of Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, as the former Chelsea pair could well be in contention to take charge.
Replacing Sarri might be a priority for many Blues fans, but they also are unsure as to what the solution would be.
Syrett said: “It’s the million-dollar question really—truth is there’s not many top managers left who haven’t or who would want a go at managing this club. The outstanding candidate for me is Diego Simeone, and with Diego Godin announcing his departure and Antoine Griezmann possibly on his way to Barcelona, now could be the time to tempt him.”
Chelsea will now wait to discover whether Roma will make an approach for Sarri at the end of this season. His time at the helm may not have been all sunshine and rainbows, but the club know that letting go of him could just lead to new problems.
Source: Published by bleacherreport