Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has hailed Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as the ‘perfect’ replacement for the Serie A club’s manager Maurizio Sarri – who, in turn, is reportedly coveted by Chelsea as Conte’s replacement.
According to the Sun, De Laurentiis has confirmed that Sarri could leave the Italian side this summer, fuelling speculation that Napoli and the Blues could swap managers this summer. The Napoli president said: “I already talked with Sarri about the contract and he asked me to wait.”
De Laurentiis added: “If someone then had to pay the release clause, at that point I couldn’t do anything. But if [Sarri] wanted to leave regardless, it would mean he has no more motivation and I will have to take note of this.”
De Laurentiis was also full of praise for Conte, explaining: “Since October we have looked in both Italy and in Europe. Simone Inzaghi, [Marco] Giampaolo and [Leonardo] Semplici. Antonio Conte would be a perfect boss to enforce the rules.”
Conte won the Premier League with the Blues last season and has reached this year’s FA Cup final. However, his relationship with the Chelsea hierarchy has become increasingly strained this season.
This is partly thanks to his outspoken criticisms of the board, but also because of his side’s disappointing results, as the Blues face the real possibility of finishing outside the Premier League top four and were humbled by Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16.
As for Sarri, his Napoli side have impressed in Serie A this season, winning 1-0 away to Juventus to throw the title race wide open – although last weekend’s disappointing 3-0 defeat away to Fiorentina has left his side four points behind I Bianconeri with just three matches to play.
Were Sarri to move to the Premier League, he could prove to be a colourful and controversial character. He made an obscene gesture at Juventus fans before his side’s shock win in Turin – as well as using crude, sexist and threatening language in an interview with a female journalist, for which he has since apologised.
De Laurentiis’ comments about Conte and Sarri are not the only intriguing things he has said recently. According to the Football Italia website, he has sensationally revealed to the Italian media that he has signed a highly prolific player – but has tantalisingly refused to reveal who it is.
Speaking to Il Mattino and the Corriere dello Sport, he said: “I will reveal this: I have already signed a player who has scored 20 goals and plays abroad. But I promised that I won’t tell you who it is.”
Only 22 players fit this description, including Olympique Marseille’s Florian Thauvin and
Sporting CP’s Bas Dost. However, according to the Corriere della Sera, the player in question is believed to be FC Porto’s Moussa Marega, who has netted 20 times in 33 league matches for the Primeira Liga leaders.