Maurizio Sarri on the brink as series of crisis engulf Chelsea
Maurizio Sarri is on the brink of being sacked amid fears that Chelsea could be plunged into crisis, with the club's problems extending further than the future of their head coach.
Following Monday's FA Cup defeat by Manchester United and the Stamford Bridge revolt against Sarri, the Italian could be dismissed if Chelsea lose either of their next two games, against Malmo in the Europa League tomorrow, or Manchester City in Sunday's Carabao Cup final.
But there are fears that Chelsea's plight could be made even more difficult, regardless of who is head coach, as the club wait to see if:
- Eden Hazard confirms their worst fears and asks to join Real Madrid.
- Fifa hits the Blues with a transfer ban.
- Uefa bans thousands of their fans in the Europa League.
- Their battle with former head coach Antonio Conte goes to court.
Roman Abramovich is facing one of the most difficult periods of his 16-year reign, while rumours persist that he could look to sell the club.
Chelsea insist Abramovich remains fully committed and that Sarri’s fate will be decided by the Russian. But he has not been seen at Stamford Bridge this season after withdrawing his application for a visa and sacrificing his right to work in the UK. He has not visited the training ground to speak with Sarri or serve a personal ultimatum to the squad.
Star player Hazard is expected to turn down the offer of a new contract, no matter who is manager, and push for a move to Real at the end of the season. He would be the third top player to depart in 18 months, after Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois.
An insider said: “Hazard’s future is the elephant in the room. Nobody seems to want to come out and admit he wants to leave.”
Chelsea have signed Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund to join in the summer and would look to replace Hazard, but their transfer plans could be thrown into disarray by Fifa. It emerged last month that the world governing body has been investigating more than 100 cases in which Chelsea could have broken the rules on the signing of foreign players under the age of 18.
A decision is expected soon, with Chelsea facing a transfer ban if they are found guilty. An appeal could delay any suspension and allow the club to trade in the summer, but any future suspension would present huge issues.
Chelsea will find out on February 28 what punishment they face for anti-Semitic chanting by fans in the Europa League tie against MOL Vidi. Uefa, having charged the Blues, has the power to force them to close a section of Stamford Bridge or ban travelling supporters for a future European game.
Chelsea lead Malmo 2-1 going into tomorrow’s round-of-32 second-leg tie. The competition, and the possibility of qualifying for the Champions League, is now of vital importance, with a top-four place in the Premier League under threat.
Should Abramovich sack Sarri, he may have to pay off two Italian coaches in quick succession. Conte is yet to receive compensation for his dismissal, as lawyers attempt to settle the dispute. Unless a swift resolution can be found, Conte has threatened to take the club to court before the end of the season.
If Sarri is sacked, assistant manager Gianfranco Zola is expected to be asked to take caretaker charge until the end of the season. But Chelsea, with all their potential problems, could find it hard to convince a top manager to succeed Sarri.
Zinedine Zidane has been linked with the club, but there are doubts over whether he would find the job an attractive proposition.
Juventus manager Max Allegri has interested Chelsea in the past, but he is currently vying to win the Champions League with the Italian club and has also attracted interest from United and Real Madrid. (© Daily Telegraph, London)