Luis Enrique has offered to compromise on his initial demands to replace Antonio Conte as Chelsea manager. The Spaniard – a Champions League winner in his last job at Barcelona – is willing to cede a degree of control over transfer policy if he is appointed by the English Premier League club.
Enrique is one of number of candidates for a role that both Chelsea and Conte expect to be formally vacated this summer. The 48-year-old brings a CV that includes back-to-back LaLiga titles at the club most admired by Chelsea’s billionaire owner; and could be hired without paying compensation to a former employer. It is understood that Enrique’s salary demands remain higher than other coaches on the London club’s shortlist.
Chelsea are also understood to have progressed discussions with Laurent Blanc. The 53-year-old former France national team coach has been out of work since being laid off by Paris Saint-Germain two years ago. Blanc, who was replaced at the Qatar-owned club by Unai Emery, represents a relatively low-cost alternative to Enrique.
The appointment process has been complicated by Conte’s insistence that he receive a full year’s salary as a severance payment from the club.
Chelsea have held off from terminating the Italian’s contract in the hope he would secure employment elsewhere, thus eliminating or limiting their liability on compensation. Conte’s basic wage is understood to be worth an annual €6.5million after tax, a sum he has no reservations about collecting from Chelsea while waiting for a job offer from an elite club.
An asymmetric rescission clause in Maurizio Sarri’s contract with Napoli played a factor in Chelsea cooling their interest in an individual who led the Neopolitans to the verge of the Serie A title. Conscious of interest from the Premier League and Zenit St Petersburg, Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis elected to keep the controversial coach on the wage bill despite handing first-team duties to Carlo Ancelotti. As matters stand, any club hiring Sarri will have to pay De Laurentiis €8m to buy out his contract. Film producer De Laurentiis, in contrast, is only obliged to pay Sarri €500,000 should he at some point decide to sack him.
Conflict between manager and club has been a persistent feature of Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich era; again proving central to the long drawn-out divorce of Conte, who delivered one English title and one FA Cup during his two seasons at Stamford Bridge. According to sources familiar with the club’s transfer negotiations, senior director Marina Granovskaia does not want authority over an area of business fundamental to Chelsea’s finances relinquished to the first-team manager.
There are also significant question marks over the size of budget Abramovich will allocate to transfer fees and player contracts this summer. Last week the Russian indefinitely suspended planning and design work on an ambitious 60,000-seat stadium rebuild.
According to a club statement, “the decision was made due to the current unfavourable investment climate”. The announcement, however, arrived in the same week that Abramovich took Israeli citizenship following a government decision to delay and examine the renewal of his UK investor visa.
AS Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, Fulham’s Slavisa Jokanovic and Zinedine Zidane have also been proposed as potential successors to Conte.