It took about a year for Roman Abramovich to grind down Antonio Conte’s spirit and turn him into a feeble shell of the man he once was. With Maurizio Sarri, the Russian might be able to do it in about a week.
That’s because, according to the Telegraph, Chelsea’s incoming manager is set to begin his Stamford Bridge reign by making exactly the same mistake as his predecessor – namely, demanding transfer targets that Abramovich won’t let him have.
Sarri is expected to be appointed as Blues manager imminently and will reportedly make his Napoli forward Dries Mertens a priority signing at his new club.
The 59-year-old coach believes the Belgian, who scored one of the goals of the World Cup so far with a looping volley against Panama, would be the “perfect man” to line up on the right side of Chelsea’s front three next season.
However, this exact idea was allegedly proposed by Conte in each of the last two summer transfer windows, only for Abramovich to scupper the plan both times.
On those occasions Chelsea’s board deemed Mertens, 31, “too told and too expensive”. This time he will be even older and even more expensive, following the expiry of his £24.5m release clause last week.
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So the chances of Sarri getting into a fight with Abramovich in his first week in the job seem quite high, which is excellent news for anyone who enjoys it when things go wrong for Chelsea (which is everyone).
Spurs and Arsenal chase Rhian Brewster
Rhian Brewster has the opposite problem – he’s too young. Too young, at least, to be confident that Jurgen Klopp will make him part of Liverpool’s first team next season.
The Sun says the 18-year-old Reds wonderkid “wants assurances” that Klopp will play him before he signs his first professional contract – a stand-off that has piqued the interest of Tottenham and Arsenal.
The north London duo have apparently “checked on the availability” of Brewster and will try to snatch the prolific striker before he puts pen to paper at Anfield.
The Gunners are also reportedly keen on the 29-year-old Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega, who the Mirror says will “hold talks” with Emirates officials about a summer transfer.
Seven clubs wants Jack Wilshere
And the fight for Jack Wilshere’s heart can begin in earnest after the midfielder announced that he is leaving Arsenal. The Mirror identifies seven clubs – West Ham, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Southampton, Everton, AC Milan and Sampdoria – who will try to sign him.
Meanwhile, Manchester United are “keeping tabs” on Real Madrid forward Marco Asensio, who is reportedly “considering his future” at the Bernabeu because he fears a lack of regular football at the club next season. El Gol Digital claims United are “ready to make a move” although they would face competition from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace will offer star winger Wilfried Zaha a new £120,000-a-week deal to convince him not to join Tottenham (Mirror), West Ham and Burnley are competing to sign £8m-rated Senegal striker Moussa Konate, 25, from French side Amiens (Sun) and Huddersfield are set to sign the 23-year-old Belgium midfielder Anthony Limbombe from Club Brugge (Sun). He had not heard of Huddersfield until they tried to buy him, but he’s up for it.