Chelsea Exploring Shock Back-Up Plan as Sarri Deal Stalls Over Release Clause & Controversial Past

Jamie Spencer

Chelsea have been tipped to go after newly available three-time Champions League winning manager Zinedine Zidane as their hunt for a new manager to replace Antonio Conte, who is still hanging on at Stamford Bridge waiting to be sacked.

Chelsea were thought to have been very keen on taking Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, only for negotiations to hit a brick wall. The Guardian has reported that ​Napoli, despite already hiring Carlo Ancelotti, are insistent that a £7m release clause for Sarri must be paid.

He is no longer manager at Napoli, but the Italian remains under contract for two more years and the ​Serie A side won't let him go without a fight. Chelsea won't pay the fee, though.

It has also been said by a handful of reports that Chelsea are concerned over Sarri's past after the 59-year-old was banned from the touchline in the Coppa Italia for aiming homophobic comments towards then Inter coach Roberto Mancini.

There is a chance it could fall apart and Chelsea are already rumoured to be looking elsewhere.

Conveniently, Zinedine Zidane is suddenly on the market and The Sun has tipped Chelsea to offer the Frenchman an immediate return to management.

The tabloid suggests the FA Cup winners will at least make an 'informal approach' to gauge Zidane's interest of moving to west London and taking on what has become a big project.

Conversely, the Daily Mail has called former France and Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc the 'prime candidate' for the Chelsea job instead.

Once of Manchester United towards the end of his illustrious playing career, Blanc has been taking time off for the past two seasons after leaving PSG in 2016. The Frenchman led PSG to three Ligue 1 titles in three seasons and previously also made Bordeaux champions as well.

If Sarri goes pear-shaped and moves for Zidane and Blanc fail to materialise, the Mail also notes thatChelseahave a back-up plan in place: Avram Grant. The Israeli, who was hired for the 2007/08 season after Jose Mourinho's first departure, remains close to Roman Abramovich.