Maurizio Sarri expected to be named Chelsea manager within days
Chelsea expect to resolve the club’s managerial situation this week, with Maurizio Sarri preparing to finally succeed Antonio Conte.
And Alvaro Morata is set to hold talks over his Chelsea future when the club’s non-World Cup players return for pre-season training on July 9.
Conte has prepared a rigorous pre-season training programme in case he remains in charge, but the expectation is still that Sarri will replace him as head coach before Morata and Co start work again at Cobham a week on Monday.
Whoever welcomes the players for pre-season training will still have the benefit of working with Chris Jones, despite the fact he has joined Frank Lampard at Derby County as first-team coach.
Jones, who was a fitness coach at Stamford Bridge for 12 years, will split his time between Chelsea and Derby until the season kicks off to help get the Blues players ready for the new campaign, before joining the Rams full-time.
Chelsea’s players have been left in the dark over the club’s managerial plans, but there is a feeling among the squad they will return to work under Sarri or Conte, rather than anybody else.
One clear signal of a move towards Sarri is that three players Chelsea have held talks over signing, midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, goalkeeper Alisson Becker and defender Daniele Rugani, are all rated highly by Sarri.
Conversely, Italian sources claim Conte has not had any input into the targeting of those players and has not been involved in talks with Chelsea over transfers.
Negotiations between intermediaries aimed at releasing Sarri from his Napoli contract have progressed over the past fortnight, but Chelsea have been reluctant to jump too quickly into agreeing to pay off Conte.
The Italian is not expected to walk straight into another job, so Conte could be due around £9million if he does not work for the 12 months that remain on his contract.
Conte has remained silent while he waits to find out whether or not he will be replaced, unlike last summer when he there were constant reports from Italy that he was unhappy.
Other than making a definitive decision on who will coach the team next season, Chelsea need to address a number of issues regarding their squad with Morata’s future near the top of the list.
Having joined for a club record £57m from Real Madrid last summer, Morata struggled to adapt to English football during his first season at Stamford Bridge.
Following a promising start, he suffered problems with his fitness and his form prompting claims he would like a return to either Italy or Spain.
Morata, though, posted a message on his official Instagram account on Friday night that said: “Very excited to start again. The past was hard but that is only one more reason to begin fighting again.”
Chelsea are expected to quickly seek clarity over whether or not Morata, who has been linked with a return to Juventus, wants to stay at the club, so they can react accordingly.
There is still a belief Morata would improve during a second season in England and the Spaniard would only be allowed to leave if Chelsea could find a replacement. Robert Lewandowski and Anthony Martial are two strikers who have been on their radar since the end of the season, while Sarri is a big fan of Gonzalo Higuain who has been with Argentina at the World Cup.