ROMAN ABRAMOVICH may just have brought the entertainment to Chelsea at long last.
The Russian’s tenure has been trophy-laden but based largely on cautious football from pragmatists like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
Abramovich has always craved a manager whose thrilling style will have fans off their seats.
He was desperate to land Pep Guardiola in the past for that very reason but failed to land the Spaniard.
But the billionaire could be forgiven for thinking, as he watched on at Nice’s Allianz Riviera stadium, that he may have finally landed an equivalent.
Maurizio Sarri wowed supporters and neutrals alike with his slick ‘Sarri-ball’ in three seasons at Napoli.
And the first impressions here are that Premier League fans are going to love it just as much.
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As should the Chelsea players who grew tired of the Conte’s repetitive training methods.
Sarri’s approach centres around moving the ball rapidly up the pitch with neat, one or two touch passing.
It was on show right from the first whistle here on the French riviera and opponents Inter, who will be playing in the Champions League while Chelsea are in the Europa League this term, struggled to handle it.
Sarri picked the same XI that won his first game in charge against Perth Glory Down Under earlier in the week.
That was despite many of his players who had played at the World Cup – barring those that had featured form the semis onwards – making the trip.
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The likes of Antonio Rudiger, Victor Mose, Cesar Azpilicueta – plus shock new signing Rob Green – were on the bench as Sarri persevered with 17-year-olds Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Left winger Hudson-Odoi particularly impressed with his pace and movement as midfielders Cesc Fabregas, Jorginho and Ross Barkley rarely took more than two touches before seeking him out.
It made for exciting fare and with five minutes on the clock Alvaro Morata thought he may have opened the scoring when heading home a Fabregas cost, only to be ruled offside.
Morata looked like a man on a mission to impress Sarri with speculation surrounding his future and the the possibility of Gonzalo Higuain’s arrival.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia met with Juventus officials in Nice on Saturday with the potential signings of Higuain, Daniele Rugani and Mattia Caldara all on the agenda.
It will cost Abramovich top dollar with Rugani valued at £45million, Caldara only £5m less despite never having played for the Old Lady and Higuain fetching £55m.
Higuain may need some convincing by Sarri that, at 30, a move to the physical Premier League would be right for him at this stage of his career.
Though Sarri has form in persuading the Argentina hitman, having talked him into staying at Napoli in 2015 before Higuain went on to score 36 league goals – a Serie A record.
The striker said at the time that Sarri “took just a few minutes to convince me to remain at the club” – so no wonder Morata looked eager to impress.
Yet the man who stole the show from Chelsea’s perspective was Pedro, who thrived off his licence to roam inside off the flank.
The Spaniard turned 31 on Saturday and celebrated his birthday by opening the scoring, firing in a rebound after Morata’s blast was parried into his path.
Pedro was largely overlooked by Conte last term and made only 17 league starts, despite playing a key role in the league title triumph the season before.
A burst down the left from near his 18-yard box by Hudson-Odoi, via one-twos with Barkley and Morata before his shot was saved, offered the closest thing to Sarri-ball in the game.
While the vocal Jorginho marshalled his midfield and the whole team, really, throughout.
Changes were made at half-time which hinted that not all in the squad will suit this new style.
Tiemoue Bakayoko looked particularly uncomfortable and it was he who lost possession to allow midfielder Roberto Gagliardini to power in an equaliser which sub keeper Willy Caballero failed to keep out.
More changes disrupted the rhythm of Sarri’s side although Tammy Abraham went close with an effort.
But all in all, it was encouraging stuff for Chelsea fans, Premier League supporters and Abramovich for what is to come.
A report suggested the Blues owner could sell up to an individual named Jim Radcliffe for £2billion before kick-off – but Chelsea insisted the club was not for sale.
And with Sarri potentially bringing the joyous football Abramovich has been searching for since he arrived at the club in 2003, you would wonder why he would want to quit now.