Maurizio Sarri stormed out of training on the eve of Chelsea’s Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku. The Blues manager threw his club baseball cap to the turf, kicked it, picked it up and threw it down again, before walking down the Baku Olympic Stadium tunnel.
His fury appeared to be ignited by what looked a minor skirmish involving striker Gonzalo Higuain and defender David Luiz at the end of a training match during the session. Sarri’s walk-off came just hours after he had claimed a growing love for his players amid rumours surrounding his long-term future.
Sarri has already led Chelsea to next term’s Champions League courtesy of a third-place Premier League finish, but doubts remain over his Stamford Bridge tenure after an often fractious first campaign in London.
“The beginning of the season was really very difficult for me to understand my players, the mentality,” said Sarri.
“But after a very difficult month in January, in February they started to change, I think, probably I changed, I don’t know. In this moment I love them, because I have 20, 22 wonderful men and wonderful players. So now I am really very happy with them.
And of course I have to consider it for the future. And I have to consider that I love English football, I love the Premier League.
Asked if he could end up at Juventus next season, Sarri added: “I want to think only to the final of course, then I have a contract with Chelsea for two years.
“So first of all I will speak with Chelsea, but this is not the moment. Now we have only to think to the final.”
Derby boss Frank Lampard has been linked with a Chelsea move should Sarri leave, and despite swatting away speculation the current Blues manager conceded tonight’s outcome could very well map out his future.
Asked if the Europa League final represents the biggest moment of his life, Sarri replied: “I don’t know. I don’t know. Because the feeling from the coach between a coach and a journalist is different.
“Of course this match for the media is the most important of my life, but probably not for me. I will only be able to answer tomorrow.”
Chelsea head into tonight’s match still sweating over midfielder N’Golo Kante’s fitness. Boss Sarri insisted he will hand Kante as much time as possible to prove his fitness, but only rated the France star as “50-50” last night. Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley will start should Kante miss out.
“Kante had a very little problem with his knee,” said Sarri.
“The problem is the timing, because we have only four days. We are trying. It’s not really a very serious injury. We have the problem of the three, four days to try to recover him.
“But at the moment we don’t know. We will try, until the last moment. So we will try tomorrow, but we don’t know at the moment. I think he is 50-50 at the moment.
“Yesterday, 60-40 against, and now, today, 50-50. He was a little bit better this morning. We are in trouble with the midfield. At the moment we have only three midfielders for three positions. So we are in trouble.
“For us N’Golo really is very important. He is the only defensive midfielder that we have. So for us Kante is really very important, we are trying to recover him. We’ll try tomorrow morning. I hope to recover him because I know without N’Golo for us is a problem.”
Sarri also revealed Eden Hazard is so talented he often ends up “bored” in Chelsea training.
Hazard is hunting a fairytale Chelsea farewell tonight. The Belgium talisman fired home the winning penalty in the semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt with his last act at Stamford Bridge.
Now the 28-year-old wants to sign off in style by swiping European silverware before completing his expected £100m (€113.3m) summer transfer to Real Madrid.
“It’s a pleasure during the match; sometimes during the week it’s a problem but during the match it’s a pleasure of course,” said Sarri, when asked to detail the experience of coaching Hazard.
“It’s a problem during the week because he’s a talent and during training sometimes he’s bored, because for him everything is really very easy. Eden is one of the most important players in Europe, the world.
“He can improve. He has to try to become the best in Europe. He can become the best player in Europe — and the world — I think.”