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Sarri's clean slate: Why fans should be excited for Chelsea mad Lucas Piazon

COMMENT: Of course Cobham is bouncing. With a new manager comes a fresh opinion. A clean slate. Reputations are torn up - then rebuilt.

For Maurizio Sarri, N'Golo Kante can play further forward. David Luiz? He still has much to offer. And there is value in Ross Barkley's style of game.

Antonio Conte is the past. The locker room politics. The set ideas. They're gone. Forgotten. Sarri is now in charge of Chelsea. And with a different approach. No past judgments. No preconceived ideas. Everyone gets a fighting chance.

If you're a Chelsea fan. Indeed, just a general Premier League fan. You must be happy - even excited - to hear Sarri is refusing to let Lucas Piazon leave this week.

AC Milan have tried. Before closing their deal for Tiemoue Bakayoko, Leonardo, the club's new general manager, asked after his fellow Brazilian. Like Bakayoko, Leonardo fancied taking Piazon on-loan. But the call came directly from Sarri: forget it. Piazon would not be shifting. And that was it. Leonardo's enquiry was made Monday and with the Italian transfer window to shut this week, he wasn't going to waste any more time trying to convince Sarri to reconsider.

And it was one to startle. Piazon? The perennial loanee? He was still wanted at Chelsea? Indeed, he's still there...?

If this had been a Conte preseason, Piazon would be gone. Seven years a Chelsea player. At 24. There's too many among the staff at Cobham who have made up their minds on the midfielder.

"Good player," they'd tell this column, "but he'll make his career away from here". And you'd accept it. Five years away on-loan and at five different clubs. There was never any indication inside Chelsea that he was viewed as a long-term option.

And reinforcing that opinion - pre-Sarri - was news from the player. Piazon, having played his part in Fulham's promotion, was tapped by Chelsea late, last season with the promise of new contract talks this summer.

"The club don't want to lose me just yet," he said. "They want me to renew."

That was May. And three months on. For the start of preseason. There'd been no follow up about a new deal. With the current agreement running to 2020, Chelsea were already protected. The only reason to enter negotiations was if management had intended to keep the midfielder.

At that point, he could've chucked it in. And there were opportunities. Leonardo isn't alone in his admiration. These five years a loanee have seen Piazon win admirers in Holland, Germany and Spain. Wherever he's played on the continent, the Brazilian, without being spectacular, has always met expectations. If word was out that Piazon was to leave, there'd be no shortage of takers.

"My wish is to be playing," said Piazon during last season's promotion playoffs. "To go to a place where you do not play, staying on the bench, is not cool. I'm 24 years old and what matters is playing either with Fulham or elsewhere."

However, instead he took a gamble. On himself. That promise of contract talks had come to nothing. But he was still prepared to back himself. He traveled with Sarri's squad to Australia. He threw everything into this preseason, approaching it like it was his first - not a seventh. And Sarri has been won over.

As mentioned, Piazon does enjoy a good reputation across Europe. As he does at home. The midfielder has been capped at every level from U15 to U23. For Chelsea, there is something there to work with - which Sarri has recognised.

As much as Kepa Arrizabalaga or Mateo Kovacic, if Piazon is registered by Sarri for his Premier League squad it should be celebrated just as loudly. Chelsea has been a lifelong obsession for Piazon. A Blues mad kid growing up in Sao Paulo. Signing for them at 17. Being bounced around Europe for five years. He's never given up on his dream.

"I came here in 2011 to play for Chelsea," says Piazon. "But it depends a lot on the coach. It really is the coach who decides everything."

And with that fresh set of eyes, Sarri has seen something - thanks to the player's efforts in preseason - that now has Piazon closer than ever to fulfilling his ambitions.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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