Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta was reportedly involved in a heated exchange with manager Maurizio Sarri following the Blues’ defeat to Arsenal.
According to a report from The Times, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and defensive mainstay Cesar Azpilicueta were involved in a training ground bust-up last week.
The incident happened last Monday, in the aftermath of Chelsea’s disappointing 2-0 defeat to fellow North London outfit Arsenal in the Premier League. Following the match, Sarri lambasted his players, questioning their mental strength and motivation levels.
Speaking to the press, the Italian had said, “I have to say that I’m extremely angry, very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach. We played against a team which mentally was far more determined than we were. And this is something I can’t accept.”
“We had a similar issue in the league game at Tottenham. We spoke a great deal about that loss and our approach at the time, and I spoke to the players, and I thought we’d overcome this issue. But it appears we still have this issue and we still seem to lack sufficient motivation and being mentally solid and our determination. So I’m not happy, I’m really not happy.”
The 29-year-old Azpilicueta, who has captained Chelsea for most of the season with Gary Cahill frozen out of the first-team picture, took exception to the comments made by his manager and had a “heated exchange” with the former Napoli boss at the training ground on Monday, defending his teammates.
Chelsea have bounced back strongly after Sarri’s strong words last week, beating Tottenham on the way to the Carabao Cup finals, before edging past Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Chelsea step up pursuit of Elseid Hysaj
While Sarri is believed to have been impressed by Azpilicueta’s willingness to stand up for his teammates and defend them, the Italian is still unhappy with his options at right-back and is keen on bolstering the area with another addition.
Azpilicueta has been with the Blues for over six years now and has gone on to make 312 appearances, establishing himself as a mainstay at the back. However, the Spaniard has not been at his best on the field this term. Chelsea have loaned Victor Moses out to Fenerbahce and are open to letting Davide Zappacosta leave should they be able to bring in a new player before the deadline day.
To that end, Chelsea have been strongly linked with a move for Napoli superstar Elseid Hysaj. The Albanian international is someone who has worked with Sarri at both his previous clubs – Empoli and Napoli – and has thrived under the Italian tactician.
Hysaj came through the youth ranks at Empoli, before establishing himself as a regular first-team member under Sarri. Having made over 100 appearances for the club, the Albanian full-back followed Sarri to Napoli in 2015.
Since joining the Partenopei, Hysaj has made over 150 appearances for the club, but has found himself behind the likes of Nikola Maksimovic and Kevin Malcuit in the pecking order under former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti in the ongoing campaign.
In addition to being able to play at both right-back and left-back, Hysaj is also accustomed to the kind of football that Sarri likes to play and has the potential to be an excellent addition to the ranks at Stamford Bridge.
Hysaj’s contract with Napoli runs till the summer of 2021, but the Serie A heavyweights are open for a sale and value the 42-time capped Albanian international in the range of £45 million. Chelsea, however, are believed to be planning to take him on loan for the rest of the season, before making the deal permanent in the summer.
It remains to be seen if Chelsea push ahead with their pursuit of Hysaj with the deadline day only three days away. If they are successful in their chase, it will be interesting to see who among the Albanian and Azpilicueta will be the first-choice under Sarri moving forward this season.