LONDON: Chelsea remain locked in a stand-off with Maurizio Sarri over the future of the Italian who took them to third place in the Premier League and victory in the Europa League in his first season in English football.

The 60-year-old is wanted by Juventus and a number of his coaching staff are eager to return to Italy. But Sarri, while tempted by the Italian champions, is only halfway through a two-year contract and has an option for a further season.

Chelsea’s board had been resigned to seeing Sarri leave after a season in which, for all the progress, his selection and tactics had not thrilled club or fans. However the absence of an obvious replacement and the prospect of a restrictive FIFA transfer ban are persuading the club to think again.

The Blues do not want to sack Sarri because he would demand £5m compensation for the remainder of his contract and they have only recently had to pay £9m to Antonio Conte after his dismissal last year.

Former Chelsea favourite Frank Lampard would be a popular replacement for Sarri but it may be too soon for him to return. The old goalscoring midfielder guiding Derby to the second division play-off final where they lost to Aston Villa. But he has had only one year’s managerial experience. Chelsea would also have to pay a significant sum to Derby to buy out both Lampard and his assistant Jody Morris – another former Chelsea player.

Another manager whose future remains uncertain is ex-Liverpool and Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez. He returned to Newcastle’s training ground this week for the first time since the end of season although it is not certain whether he will sign a new contract. Fans fear he turned up to say goodbye.

Benitez’s current deal expires on June 30 and a contract extension offer remains open to the 59-year-old. He is waiting to see whether owner Mike Ashley sells the club to the Bin Zayed Group from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Sportswear magnate Ashley and the fans want Benitez to stay but new owners may have other ideas.