Enzo Maresca: Chelsea won over by new manager plans for Enzo Fernandez as appointment draws near

Chelsea are closing in on the appointment of Enzo Maresca as their new head coach, with Blues chiefs looking to wrap up a quick deal for the Leicester boss.

Leicester have given Chelsea permission to speak to Maresca after the 44-year-old Italian emerged as their No1 target to replace Mauricio Pochettino.

Senior Chelsea officials are set to hold further talks with Maresca in Marbella, where he is on holiday, and will continue discussions with Leicester over a compensation package of around £10million.

Maresca guided Leicester to the Championship title this season and Chelsea sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart are understood to have recommended him as the outstanding candidate to co-owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital.

Chelsea recruitment director Joe Shields worked with Maresca at Manchester City and has also provided glowing reports.

Barring any late hitches, a deal could be finalised soon after Kieran McKenna withdrew from the running and Maresca was chosen ahead of Roberto De Zerbi and Thomas Frank.

Chelsea are thought to be prepared to hand Maresca a contract as long as five years, but crucially with prudent break clauses built in.

No1 target: Chelsea are closing in on the appointment of Leicester boss Enzo Maresca (Getty Images)
No1 target: Chelsea are closing in on the appointment of Leicester boss Enzo Maresca (Getty Images)

Maresca is likely to bring a nucleus of his Leicester backroom staff with him to Stamford Bridge, which would mean a return for ex-Blues goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

Caballero has been Maresca’s assistant manager at Leicester, and could now return to the club he played for between 2017 and 2021.

Maresca has completed only one full season as a head coach but he has edged out rivals De Zerbi and Frank after impressing Chelsea in a raft of areas.

Pochettino left Chelsea by mutual consent last week after securing a sixth-place Premier League finish, amid internal disagreements over his level of influence.

Pochettino wanted a larger say on transfers and wider plans, while Chelsea are fixed on developing a head-coach model - a role that appeals to Maresca.

The Blues initially targeted Maresca because of his tactical outlook and his experience of having worked as assistant manager to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

At Leicester, he put into practice all the knowledge he had soaked up working at City.

Maresca, who also worked at West Ham as assistant to Manuel Pellegrini, developed his tactical approach across his two roles at City, first as under-23s coach then as Guardiola’s assistant.

He favours a framework of 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 that aligns with Chelsea’s views on what suits the Stamford Bridge squad.

The former Juventus and Sevilla midfielder, who started his playing career at West Brom, tends to deploy inverted full-backs, and through his representatives has already impressed Chelsea with his views on how to get the best out of the Blues’ players.

Maresca is thought to have found favour with the Chelsea hierarchy through detailing plans on how to help Enzo Fernandez flourish at Stamford Bridge.

The Argentina World Cup-winner is recovering from surgery on a hernia problem that had blighted the second half of his debut Chelsea campaign.

The 23-year-old is yet to find his true niche at Chelsea despite his clear talent, struggling at times to build a fluent partnership with Moises Caicedo.

Maresca is understood to have outlined several set-up shifts that he believes would allow Fernandez to thrive at Chelsea.

Chelsea had spoken to Ipswich boss McKenna but he now looks set to agree a new deal to stay at the club he has just guided to promotion to the Premier League.