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'I am not happy about this situation' - Chelsea boss Sarri says Willian's late return is 'strange'

After their friendly defeat to Arsenal in Dublin, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri revealed his frustration at the Brazilian star’s delayed return.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
Image: AAP/PA Images

Aaron Gallagher reports from the Aviva Stadium

CHELSEA MANAGER MAURIZIO Sarri admitted his frustrated at the delayed return of star winger Willian following his involvement in the World Cup for Brazil last month.

The player has not yet returned to pre-season training with the London club and was not involved at all for their International Champions Cup penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal in Dublin on Wednesday night.

Antonio Rüdiger gave Chelsea a sixth minute lead with a well-taken header, before Alexandre Lacazette’s 90th minute equaliser led the way for the Gunners to earn a 6-5 penalty shoot-out win in front of 46,000 spectators at the Aviva Stadium.

Willian did not report for training for Chelsea this week following his involvement in Russia, where Brazil made it to the quarter-finals before being knocked out 2-1 by Belgium almost a month ago on 6 July.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

Sarri set last Friday as the date for the player’s return, and admitted that it was odd that the 29-year-old still had not entered his side’s pre-season preparations, with Chelsea taking on Manchester City in two days’ time in the Community Shield.

“I want to speak to him before answering this question,” Sarri said when asked about Willian’s return, with the delay reportedly due to issues relating to the player’s passport.

Actually, I don’t know,” the Italian added when asked about his understanding of why the player had not reported, later describing the predicament as “strange”.

“I want to speak to him. I am not happy about this situation. Before I can answer this question I want to speak to him.”

The new Blues boss faces a tough challenge at Stamford Bridge in 2018/19 after taking over from Antonio Conte. Chelsea succeeded in claiming the FA Cup last season but failed to defend their Premier League title with any conviction.

Chelsea v Hull City - Emirates FA Cup - Fifth Round - Stamford Bridge Willian was one of Chelsea's best players last season. Source: John Walton

Players like Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard have been linked with big-money moves away from London following the side’s fifth place finish last season, but Sarri insisted that it was the club’s objective to hang onto such players.

“I will see them on Saturday for the first time, so I don’t know what the situation is at this moment,” he said when asked about the club’s returning World Cup players.

There is no news. Of course (we want to retain them). We are talking about top players and every club wants to keep its top players. We are trying to do that.”

A packed Landsdowne Road was the venue for the Premier League club’s final pre-season game.

Their penalty shootout loss in Dublin was Sarri’s first taste of defeat since taking over, but the 59-year-old said he was content with his side’s overall performance despite conceding a 90th minute equaliser.

“We had our first training session on 16 July. We have done very well in the first half and we made a mistake in the last minute, but I am really happy with the performance,” he said.

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Aaron Gallagher

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