BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 28 – Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri stormed off in anger after television cameras caught Gonzalo Higuain and David Luiz clashing at a training session in Baku ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final.
Sarri was seen throwing away his Chelsea baseball cap, kicking it and then picking it up and angrily slamming it to the ground as he left the pitch at the Baku Olympic Stadium, where the final against Arsenal will be played.
The whole training session was open to media and so television cameras caught the incident, which does not bode well for Chelsea in the lead up to the match.
Sarri’s reaction came not long after he had spoken of how he “loved” his players and English football, comments that suggested a departure from Stamford Bridge after just one season may not be inevitable.
The former Napoli boss has been strongly linked with a return to Italy to take the vacant coaching position at champions Juventus.
“I want to think only to the final. I have a contract with Chelsea for two years, so first of all I will speak with Chelsea, but now is not the moment,” Sarri said of the Juventus speculation at a press conference in Baku on Tuesday.
The 60-year-old could replace the departing Massimiliano Allegri in Turin after a difficult season in London, and reports have said that Chelsea would not block his departure.
However, he insists his first season in charge after arriving from Napoli can be classified as a success regardless of what happens at the imposing Olympic Stadium here.
He did not lose a Premier League game until late November and despite his team’s form tailing off after that, they still finished third, ahead of both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, to secure a return to the Champions League.
In addition, they only lost the League Cup final on penalties against Manchester City, and now have the chance to win the Europa League for the second time in seven seasons.
“For me at the beginning of the season it was really very difficult to understand my players, to understand the mentality, but after a very difficult month in January, in February they started to change,” he said.
“In this moment I love them because I have 22 wonderful men and wonderful players so I’m really happy with them and of course I have to consider it for the future and I have to consider that I love English football, I love the Premier League.”
Sarri added that winning the Europa League — which would be his first major honour — would turn a “very good season” into a “wonderful” one.
“We have had ups and downs, but from the downs we have become stronger, we built a stronger group and that is one of the reasons why we are here tonight,” said skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.
“I think we all deserve to do tomorrow a good game, to play with our heart, to give everything.
“We missed the Carabao (League) Cup final on penalties in an unlucky way so tomorrow we have a good opportunity to be happy all together with the manager. There is no time to talk about this speculation.”