Has Maurizio Sarri already made his first mistake at Chelsea?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 20 July 2018, 17:13

MAURIZIO SARRI has been Chelsea manager for just one week yet may have already made his first mistake.

This is the Italian brought in to settle things down after the tempest of Antonio Conte’s reign of division which has left several senior players seriously considering their futures.

Yet Sarri is explicit in his opening message to the fans that he will not contacting Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard or Willian while they are on post World Cup holiday to discuss their futures.

If we are to believe this, which I don’t, then Sarri is far more naive and much less of an expert at dealing with player egos than his billing suggests.

Because we all know that all the time Sarri leaves his stars stewing in their own juices, or pondering their futures while leaping into azure sea water from the sun deck of an expensive yacht, other people will be calling them, or their representatives.

Rival teams will be sending whispers to Hazard, Courtois and Willian, even N’Golo Kante to try to tempt them away between now and the end of the transfer window, which shuts very soon at 5pm on August 9th.

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That is less than three weeks away. Even more alarming for Chelsea is that with the exception of Brazilian Willian, the other three are not due back to work until August 6.

That will give Sarri three days to try to persuade three unsettled and in-demand players that their future lies with him at Stamford Bridge. I have heard of people backing themselves but this is ridiculous.

By the time Hazard and Courtois in particular swanback into Chelsea’s Surrey training ground to begin preparations for the new season they could already have their bags packed.

Real Madrid do not hang around when they want to go for something. Plus they don’t generally have to.

And when the players in question are dropping serious hints that it might be time to move on it really is time to get moving on a spoiling strategy.

Trying to play it cool and suggesting it’s not good practice to interrupt employees on annual leave is endearingly old-fashioned. I wish my boss would take heed in fact.

But it is also a little simplistic at best and at worst it’s painting Chelsea in a rather grand manner, as if to say nobody moves without mine or the club’s say so. Anyone with their head remotely in the 21st century football game knows that that is simply not true anymore.

Agents, advisors, representatives. Call them what you will but bet your bottom Euro they will be getting their fingers into the likes of Hazard, Courtois and Kante. Playing on their uncertainties, making them promises, selling them dreams.

All the while Chelsea’s new manager will be chain-smoking through pre-season without his best players around. A bit like the way Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Sarri would be wise to get his players’ numbers saved into his speed dial as quickly as possible and hit that phone. Otherwise picking a team without Courtois and Hazard in it might become more than just a pre-season thing.


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