Chelsea appoint Maurizio Sarri as coach to replace Antonio Conte
Chelsea completed the long-expected hiring of Maurizio Sarri as their new manager on Saturday, appointing him after parting ways with Antonio Conte.
Though the club only formally announced Conte's departure on Friday, he was sacked on Wednesday, sources said, after weeks of uncertainty about his future as Chelsea attempted to extricate Sarri from his contractual obligation to Napoli.
Sarri signed an initial three-year contract with Chelsea after cutting ties with the Italian club, who already appointed Carlo Ancelotti as his replacement in May in anticipation Sarri would leave.
He was later joined by midfielder Jorginho, who left Napoli for a five-year deal with Chelsea for a fee worth around €60 million.
"I am very happy to be coming to Chelsea and the Premier League," Sarri said in a statement. "It is an exciting new period in my career. I look forward to starting work and meeting the players on Monday ahead of travelling to Australia, where I will be able to get to know the squad and begin our match action.
"I hope we can provide some entertaining football for our fans, and that we will be competing for trophies at the end of the season, which is what this club deserves."
Sarri has never won a major trophy in his 13-year professional coaching career, but Napoli mounted a historic Serie A title challenge against Juventus last season while earning praise for their thrilling style of play.
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In all three of his seasons in charge in Naples, Sarri led the club into the Champions League, with two second-place and one third-place finish in Serie A.
He will be tasked with returning Chelsea to Europe's top club competition after they finished fifth in the Premier League -- outside the Champions League qualification places for the second time in three seasons.
Sarri has been Chelsea's top choice to succeed Conte since May, but negotiations with Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis proved fraught with difficulty. Their willingness to beat Manchester City's offer for Italy international midfielder Jorginho provided the belated breakthrough in talks.
Jorginho is set to become the first signing of a summer in which the prolonged uncertainty over Chelsea's coaching position has had a paralysing effect on the club's transfer dealings, but more new faces are expected in the coming weeks.
Chelsea hope that Sarri's appointment and Jorginho's likely arrival, coupled with further signings to come, will help convince Eden Hazard to spurn interest from Real Madrid and sign a new long-term contract at Stamford Bridge.
Both Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois publicly said they were seeking clarity on Chelsea's coach before deciding whether to sign new contracts.
Sarri, who has risen from the amateur ranks of Italian football, will be working outside of his native country for the first time. He started in the professional ranks with Pescara in Serie B in 2005, and also spent time in charge of Arezzo, Avellino, Hellas Verona, Perugia, Alessandria and Sorrento before finding success after moving to Empoli in 2012.
He helped Empoli to promotion to Serie A in 2014 and, after keeping them in the top flight, took over Napoli in summer 2015.
Conte, who had refused to walk away from Chelsea unless the final year of his contract was paid in full, was sacked on Friday morning. He had been waiting since winning the FA Cup in May to resolve his future at Stamford Bridge.
Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season in England in 2016-17 and followed up that achievement with the FA Cup triumph this year, but his relationship with the board became damaged beyond repair, highlighted by his repeated public and private complaints about transfer policy.