Chelsea sack Antonio Conte as Maurizio Sarri appointment looms

Chelsea announced on Friday that they have sacked coach Antonio Conte, paving the way for Maurizio Sarri to take over.

Sources told ESPN FC on Thursday that Conte, who had refused to walk away from Chelsea unless the final year of his contract was paid in full, had been sacked. He had been waiting since winning the FA Cup in May to resolve his future at Stamford Bridge, but difficulty in securing Sarri delayed the process.

Chelsea are expected to announce Sarri's appointment on an initial two-year contract imminently -- together with the signing of Italy international midfielder Jorginho for a combined fee of €65 million (£57.5m) -- after convincing Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis to release the 59-year-old from his contract.

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In May, Napoli appointed Carlo Ancelotti to replace Sarri amid speculation that the latter could take the Chelsea job.

Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have both publicly said they were seeking clarity on Chelsea's summer plans before deciding whether to sign new long-term contracts, with the club facing a season without Champions League football after finishing fifth in the Premier League.

Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season in England in 2016-17 and followed up that achievement with the FA Cup triumph this year, but his relationship with the board became damaged beyond repair, highlighted by his repeated public and private complaints about transfer policy.

He also clashed with senior players such as Diego Costa and David Luiz while others had begun to grow weary of his methods. In the wake of Chelsea's FA Cup win, Willian obscured Conte in a team celebration photograph posted on Instagram.

Chelsea hoped that another club might attempt to buy Conte out of the final year of his Stamford Bridge contract as he was unwilling to resign, but Paris Saint-Germain's appointment of Thomas Tuchel and Real Madrid's choice of Julen Lopetegui eliminated the possibility.

Before joining Chelsea, Conte had only coached in his native Italy, leading Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles from 2012-14 before taking over the national team at Euro 2016.