football

Enzo Maresca: Chelsea given permission by Leicester to speak to Italian over head coach role

Chelsea are "progressing well" in talks with Enzo Maresca as they look to make the Leicester boss their new head coach on a long-term contract.

Chelsea co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart are in Marbella for face-to-face talks with Maresca and are expected to return soon.

Maresca is excited about the prospect of becoming Chelsea head coach but wants to ensure everything is done correctly and Leicester receive the respect they deserve.

There is every expectation that the deal will be agreed to everyone's satisfaction with Chelsea mindful of doing things the right way.

The Italian's release clause at the King Power Stadium is understood to be between £8m and £10m, with an agreement between the clubs expected to be straightforward if Chelsea meet the clause.

He is grateful to the Leicester owners for giving him the opportunity to manage such a great club and if he leaves, he wants to make sure he maintains good relations with the fans and everyone at the club.

The Blues have been impressed by the depth and breadth of Maresca's knowledge about their squad in talks with his representatives, and are impressed by his single-minded focus on the way Chelsea want to play and his desire for the job.

The details of any potential move still need to be agreed - compensation, personal terms and the make-up of backroom staff who could move with Maresca. The overall process is likely to take a few days before completion.

The 44-year-old's obsession with possession and positional play has made him the leading candidate to replace Pochettino.

An appointment could be made in the next few days if and when an agreement is reached with Leicester over compensation.

Kieran McKenna was told by phone on Sunday that Chelsea were looking elsewhere but they are great admirers of his achievements at Ipswich Town.

They also like and respect Thomas Frank and everything he has done at Brentford, while Roberto De Zerbi was also a leading candidate with what they consider a very impressive CV.

The new Chelsea head coach will sign a contract which will be longer than the two-year deal Pochettino accepted last summer, before he left the club by mutual consent last week.

Chelsea co-sporting directors Winstanley and Stewart drew up the final shortlist of recommended candidates, with the final decision made by the Chelsea ownership group, which includes co-owners Behdad Eghbali and Todd Boehly.

"I think we should expect a decision this week," said Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol. "Chelsea want this sorted out by the start of June.

"Eghbali has been in London for a long time and was at the FA Cup final on Saturday. He's due to leave London pretty soon, but I expect a decision this week."

Pochettino beat Arne Slot and Vincent Kompany to the job last summer. The three men were on the final shortlist and Ange Postecoglou was also a leading candidate.

Senior Chelsea figures believe the new head coach will be the final piece of the jigsaw to fit into the new modern structure they have built at the club.

Chelsea expect to be busy in the transfer market this summer with players coming and going. Trading is likely to see the signing of a new No 9 and centre-back, while the futures of high-earners such as Romelu Lukaku and Kepa Arrizabalaga need to be resolved.

Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:

"Chelsea have had a very thorough process with Kieran McKenna, Thomas Frank and Roberto De Zerbi all considered but they feel Maresca is the one for them.

"The others were all very impressive candidates, but Chelsea feel at this moment in time that Maresca is the man for them, and he shares their vision for the future.

"He's only been a manager for one-and-a-half seasons. He was a manager at Parma in the Italian second division and then he got the Leicester job.

"There have been some issues behind the scenes and not all Leicester fans have been completely happy with him even though he got them promotion back to the Premier League.

"There were problems about recruitment and problems around the fact that Leicester have been charged for allegedly breaking PSR rules and they're also under a transfer embargo from the EFL.

"There have been issues, but Chelsea just want a head coach. They want somebody who is going to coach the first team squad and deal with the media. Everything else, they feel they have in place.

"You have to remember that Mikel Arteta didn't have any prior experience of having managed in the Premier League before joining Arsenal, but he had worked under Pep Guardiola which is exactly the same as Maresca.

"I'm not saying he's a better manager than Arteta, but he has more experience than he did when he took over at Arsenal.

"Don't underestimate the Pep Effect. If you've worked under Guardiola, you've got a head-start when going for these sorts of jobs, however you still have to impress, which Maresca has done during these talks.

"I've been told that his knowledge of the Chelsea squad, including the youth team players is encyclopaedic."

Leicester Mercury correspondent Jordan Blackwell:

"Maresca is so embedded in that Guardiola style of play which is seen throughout Europe as the most successful way to play, that he was always going to attract interest when he was able to make that style successful - which he did at Leicester.

"It felt like the club had thought outside the box to bring Maresca in, with a lot of tactical knowledge whose acumen has been raved about. That's not only as Pep's assistant but with the Man City U21s and a first-team coach at West Ham.

"The Leicester players have spoken about feeling a bit stupid when he came in, he was teaching things they'd never considered or thought about, totally different ways of thinking about the game. Harry Winks said he's the best manager he's ever worked for - and he's played under Mauricio Pochettino, Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho.

"The players would take him leaving harder than the fans would. There were difficult patches with the fans, who wanted them to take more risks and try to make something happen - especially after the way they won the Premier League in 2016. But they were so concerned to be hit on the counter-attack, they were very patient with it and would keep it at the back."