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Chelsea begin talks to replace Maurizio Sarri with former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss

Chelsea have begun talks with Rafa Benitez as the club want to appoint him as Maurizio Sarri’s replacement, according to reports.

Benitez’s current contract with Newcastle United is due to expire at the end of the month and an agreement over a new deal has not been reached.

Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan has made a £350 million offer to buy Newcastle from Mike Ashley and the Dubai-based billionaire is reportedly exploring alternative managers to Benitez, including former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are making plans to appoint a new manager as Maurizio Sarri closes in on a move to Juventus.

Tuttosport report that Chelsea are happy to let Sarri leave but Roman Abramovich wants the Italian’s successor to already be in place when his departure is announced. And Tuttosport claims that a meeting between Chelsea’s hierarchy and Benitez to discuss a return to Stamford Bridge is ‘imminent’.

Benitez spent five months as Chelsea manager after replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012 and helped the club finish third in the Premier League and win the Europa League. But the Spaniard was not a popular figure among Chelsea fans, who displayed ‘Rafa out’ banners during games at Stamford Bridge.

Sarri, meanwhile, was also on the receiving end of abuse from Chelsea fans this season, despite guiding Chelsea to a third-placed finish and victory in the Europa League.

The 60-year-old has already expressed his desire to return to Italy and Chelsea are willing to let him join Juventus if the Serie A champions pay a £5 million compensation fee.