Chelsea have finally sacked Antonio Conte and paved the way for Maurizio Sarri to replace him as the club’s new head coach.
Owner Roman Abramovich has risked paying Conte his full £9million compensation bill with the Italian ready to take a year out if no big jobs become available.
Abramovich held off sacking Conte to see if a job became available that would save Chelsea having to pay him off, but the club have been left with little choice but to act – despite the Italian returning to take pre-season training since Monday.
News broke from Italy that Conte had been sacked and, although Chelsea have refused to comment, he officially left the club on Thursday.
Unless a private agreement can be struck or Chelsea and Conte embark on a bitter legal battle, the Blues will have to pay the 48-year-old for the final year of his contract that was only improved on July 18 last year.
Sarri will now be confirmed as Conte’s successor after Chelsea finally made a breakthrough with Napoli over his release.
The move from Napoli was held up after the Italian club appointed Carlo Ancelotti as their manager, but refused to let Sarri out of his contract.
But progress has been made over the past 48 hours and Sarri has agreed a two-year contract with the option of a third if an agreement can be signed off with Napoli. Gianfranco Zola could also return to Chelsea as part of the backroom or technical staff.
Sarri could be followed by midfielder Jorginho from Napoli, with Chelsea willing to pay £50m, plus £7m in bonuses, for the pair.
The Blues also hope to sign Aleksandr Golovin and Daniele Rugani. They are also interested in goalkeeper Alisson Becker if Thibaut Courtois decides he wants to leave.