By 90Min
June 04, 2019

Having recently totalled the exorbitant fees Chelsea have paid out in compensation to sacked managers during Roman Abramovich's tenure, the fact that the club are now close to potentially recouping some £5m in compensation fees of their own should be cause for celebration.

Indeed, couple that fee with the notion that the manager in question has been the recipient of chants from the Blues' own fans expletively condemning his style of play, and it seems a near miracle.

The problem is, all that's meaningless.

YURI KADOBNOV/GettyImages

In this day and age, and especially after previously spending a *spoiler* £92.9m on casting managers aside, £5m is utterly meaningless in the world of football finances, and its meaning is rendered even more useless when you consider the only realistic way that money can now be reinvested is in another manager.

That's right, no one forgot about the transfer ban, did they? Of course not. 

Yes, Maurizio Sarri has not, maybe never, been the flavour of the month at Chelsea... But how does European glory and a return to the Champions League taste? Well, when in both cases it comes at the hilarious expense of Arsenal, like a fine Italian wine. 

And this wine, let me tell you, this wine is a true vintage. It's aged to perfection. Yes, it's had good days and bad days in the barrel (that is how wine is stored, right?), but it's come through the other side, and it's really purring now. It's smooth AF.

Why then, after nurturing it through some pretty severe teething (vining?) problems, would you palm this vintage off to Turin just as its newly cut teeth (grapes?) are coming through. Just as its legs (you know, wine legs) are getting... longer? And all to replace it with a much-adored, but much-untested English sparkling wine.

Let's not beat around the bush, the biggest stick with which Sarri was beaten by throughout the season was his prior inability to win a trophy. Despite the 60-year-old attaining the coveted seal of approval from both Pep Guardiola and Arrigo Sacchi - two of the most distinguished minds football has ever seen - all dissenters cared about was his perceived impotence when the going got truly competitive. 

But then he led the team to its first League Cup final in four years - the first Cup final of his career - and, after losing that clash to a side bolstering one of the greatest squads in history, managed by one of the great managers, he learned. And he took those learnings into the Europa League, and he oversaw the competition's first-ever undefeated triumph. 

With that record, he joined the historic sides of Barcelona 2005/06 and Manchester United 2007/08 (shudder) as the only teams to have won a major European competition without losing a game.

And you probably know that as well as I do. But it's worthwhile to reiterate, because it's a sincerely impressive stat. Yes, it wasn't all fancy strolls around the rose garden - there were more than few pricks from the thorns - but these are the facts.

And yes, you Sarri deniers, if you're still here, I know you might feel like that doesn't tell the whole story, that it doesn't explain the hat-hoofing, the fairly interminable revolving door-like substitutional fracas involving Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic and the detrimental reluctance to bend to anyone's will but his own. But then neither did blithely spouting about his bare trophy cabinet before he filled it. You can't have it both ways.

Football is a nuance-free world, it always has been, and it always will be. You are a bottler until you're a champion, and that's that, as ridiculous a phenomenon as it may be.

In fact, using this logic, let's play the role-reversal game. Let's put Maurizio 'Former Jonny Forriner Banker' Sarri in charge of championship playoff final-losing Derby County, and Frank Lampard in charge of the Europa League invincibles. Do you think even one person in this contrarian-filled world would be clamouring for the former to take over from the latter? Because I can't see it.

Now, that's not to belittle the ties Lampard has to the club, and the added meaning that would come with any success he brought, but these are the black and white truths.

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And, yes, by allowing Sarri to leave in this fashion the club are not necessarily making this particular calculation anyway - it seems patently clear that Sarri is all-too-happy to jump ship - but they have done little to persuade the Italian that he is wanted, that he is appreciated.

All this is not to categorically deny that Lampard doesn't have it in him to be a great Chelsea manager at some point, or to claim that Sarri is the perfect man to lead the club forward. But, as this club have proved perhaps more than any other this century, sentimentality is rarely the best path in football.

Now, the fact that this belief has usually manifested itself in the firing of personnel rather than the hiring is a nice dichotomy. But, ironically, this time the uncompromising decision would be to keep Sarri in charge, and see what he can do with a team more conditioned to his philosophies. 

In Sarri, they have a man whose relationship with the fans has created a clearly-defined divide and whose relations with certain players has appeared similarly sketchy at times. But they also have a man who has unrivalled experience in maintaining a team's success despite the loss of its greatest star, with little help from reinvestment. 

That seems as integral a skill as any that the manager of Chelsea in 2019/20 should possess. 

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