LONDON – Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has claimed he would be happy to accept a pay cut if it ensured Premier League clubs received more breathing space between their fixtures.
Chelsea host West Ham on Monday night (9pm SA time kickoff) in the first of four matches in 11 days.
They travel to Slavia Prague for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday, and a Premier League trip to Liverpool precedes the return leg against the Czechs next week at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri is unhappy that the West Ham match leaves his team with only two days’ preparation for a European fixture.
Slavia beat Dukla in their league on Saturday.
“It’s very strange,” Sarri said. “I am not able to understand the decision of the Premier League for us to play on Monday, because we have to go to Prague as an English team.
“I think they could have done more for the English teams in Europe. Not just for us, but all the teams involved in Europe.
“In Italy, teams play on Friday before a European game. If a team is involved in the Europa League away from home, they can then ask to play their next Serie A match on a Monday.
“It’s a Premier League decision. And they showed in the last season that they are the best because they are able to sell English football in the best way. The salary is not so important for me.”
Pushed on whether he would take a wage cut, he said: “Yes, of course. It is important to have fun. To work without working because, for me, it’s not work.”
Sarri suggested Chelsea did request a change to the timing of tonight’s fixture. “I think, in this case, it was easy to solve the problem. But this is the situation, so we have to adapt.”
Sarri is realistic enough to know his players might not share his position in accepting a lower salary.
“For the players, no, because the Premier League is the best in the world. So, we need to have very strong players. The Premier League was able to sell in the best way possible the Premier League rights, so in England, we are lucky.
IT’S MATCHDAY AT LAST! ⚽️#CHEWHU pic.twitter.com/xzCHuUcpbL
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 8, 2019
“We can buy the best players in the world, we have the best championship in the world, and so we have to accept we have to play every three days.”
Sarri also underlined the development of West Ham’s sought-after starlet Declan Rice.
The defensive midfielder was released by Chelsea at 14, and Sarri admitted his side are under-strength in Rice’s very position.
“He’s a very good player, very good in the defensive phase because he’s very able to recover the ball.
“He usually plays very close to the defensive line, and in the first match against West Ham, he was a very big problem for us.”
On your marks… 🏃♂️
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 7, 2019
Sarri hinted, however, that he could train Matteo Kovacic as Jorginho’s understudy, rather than pursue Rice in the summer transfer window, should Chelsea overturn a Fifa transfer ban.
“In that position, we have some problems because we have only Jorginho. In the last match, Jorginho touched the ball 161 times.
“It’s very important for us to have top quality in that position, not for the last pass, but in moving the ball. I want to try with Kovacic. I’d very much like Kovacic to stay with us.”