Sarri requests Higuain, Mertens & Koulibaly as Chelsea talks speed up

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The Blues are still not clear on who their head coach will be next season as they push ahead to get a deal resolved before pre-season kicks off

Chelsea have spoken to prospective new manager Maurizio Sarri about his transfer preferences as he targets a host of Napoli stars from past and present, Goal understands.

Talks over a deal to appoint Sarri to replace Antonio Conte continue to progress positively and, in conversations with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia, he has stated his admiration of various Napoli stars, including Kalidou Koulibaly, Elseid Hysaj, Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens.

However, Chelsea will have the final say on transfers, just as they did with Conte and remain cautious about offering players aged over 30 a contract lasting longer than one year.

This policy may scupper Sarri's interest in signing Belgium international Mertens and also Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, whose future with the Serie A champions is the source of renewed doubts.

Higuain retains a strong bond with Sarri from their time together at Napoli, despite controversially swapping the title challengers for their fierce rivals in the north of Italy.

Koulibaly and Mertens both interested Chelsea in the past under Conte and the Senegal defender was the subject of an ultimately failed summer-long pursuit in

Napoli have always proved difficult to work with for Chelsea as discussions continue to remove Sarri from his contract, despite club president Aurelio De Laurentiis having already signed Carlo Ancelotti to replace him.

Sarri had a £7 million ($9.4m) release clause to be paid as compensation but that expired on May 31. Chelsea had sought to pay less than this clause, as they also face a possible £9m bill to remove Conte from his position as head coach.

Talks have continued between Sarri and Chelsea, as they work on their strategy to secure his appointment, although Laurent Blanc remains a frontrunner, should the negotiations collapse.

Chelsea have shown an interest in Nice's Jean Michaël Seri and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, but a lack of manager has seen all transfer activity slow down at the club.

Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli

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The club's players remain in the dark over who the new coach will be and their own futures could be affected by the next appointment. The non-World Cup players have been told that they are due back for pre-season on July 2 without knowing who the next manager will be.

The situation around the head coach has delayed potential contract renewal talks for senior players, as well as the futures of those who are among the 35-man loan group.

Blues legend Gianfranco Zola, meanwhile, is being lined up for a role under Sarri and he will be offered an assistant manager position.

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