Enzo Maresca heading to Chelsea as ownership requests talks with Leicester

Enzo Maresca becomes Chelsea's No 1 target as ownership requests talks with Leicester
Leicester City manager Enzo Maresca is Chelsea's top target to replace Mauricio Pochettino - Getty Images/Alex Dodd

Enzo Maresca is set to become Chelsea’s new head coach and will be immediately charged with taking the club back into the Premier League’s top-four next season.

Maresca has emerged as Chelsea’s No.1 target and is close to leaving Championship title winners Leicester City to take over at Stamford Bridge with negotiations now at an advanced stage.

Chelsea’s ownership asked Leicester for official permission to speak with Maresca on Monday afternoon, and are planning to fly out to hold talks in Marbella where he is currently on holiday.

Leicester will demand compensation of around £10 million for Maresca, who has only completed one full season in charge and been chosen ahead of Roberto De Zerbi and Brentford’s Thomas Frank.

Kieran McKenna, the Ipswich Town manager, made the decision to withdraw from the process over the weekend.

If negotiations continue to run smoothly, Chelsea hope to confirm Maresca as their seventh permanent manager in five years later this week.

Maresca is regarded as an ideal fit for the Chelsea board as they seek a new direction following the exit of Mauricio Pochettino last week by mutual consent.

A former coach at Manchester City working under Pep Guardiola, Maresca’s possession-based approach and obsession with positional play has made him stand out as the top target.

Regarded as very flexible tactically and capable of in-game solutions, Maresca’s preferred formation is the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 that Chelsea envisage the current squad playing next season.

The Guardiola link is regarded as crucial. After observing Mikel Arteta’s success with Arsenal, Chelsea view Maresca as another coach who will have adopted best practice from the Guardiola school of science.

Crucially, Chelsea also believe he has the charisma and temperament to manage a club of Chelsea’s size, and is able to work under pressure after being informed by Leicester last summer that promotion was the only target.

Maresca will be tasked with finishing in the top-four and returning Chelsea to the Champions League next season, which the 44-year old feels is a realistic target.

There is a willingness to work in Chelsea’s existing system, which includes sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart. Maresca was sold on the Winstanley and Laurence Stewart’s strategic vision, as the pair led the recruitment process for the new head coach. In the new era under Maresca, every job across the club will be clearly defined, with every function attached to each role outlined in painstaking detail, with the sole aim of getting Chelsea back competing for major honours.

Whereas Pochettino sought greater power at the club, including over recruitment, Maresca will be asked to focus simply on coaching and improving players.

Maresca has already established a reputation as a “coach on the pitch” and he is known to be very hands-on with training sessions.