Lazio defender Elseid Hysaj admitted that Maurizio Sarri wanted to sign him for Chelsea during his spell in charge in west London.
The right-back has been a consistent performer in Serie A over the past few seasons having represented Empoli before plying his trade at Napoli for six seasons.
Former Blues head coach Sarri was his manager for all of that time ahead of his departure for Chelsea in 2018.
The two were once again reunited at the beginning of the campaign, with the Italian taking Hysaj to Lazio following the expiry of his contract at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
The 27-year-old has since revealed that their reunion could have occurred even earlier, with Sarri having been interested in taking the defender to Stamford Bridge during his spell in charge.
Talking to News 24, he said: “Sarri hasn’t changed. I never talk much with the manager, we had problems with football, we didn’t have a nice relationship, but he’s always made me feel important.
“He’s a special guy, because when he trusts you, you want to please him.
He brought me to Lazio and wanted me at Chelsea.
I want to give him three times what he deserves
The Albanian continued: “There was interest some time ago, but as it happened I was not given the opportunity to leave for England, but I am happy with my choices, Italy is like my second home, I also found the coach I had a few years ago and I am very happy.”
Should Chelsea have followed through with Sarri’s interest in the defender, it could well have been a damaging signing for the future of Reece James.
Alongside Hysaj, Chelsea would also have had Cesar Azpilicueta and James to choose from, meaning that the latter may not have been afforded his chance in the first-team following his return from Wigan Athletic.
In the end, the now 21-year-old made his Blues debut in 2019 and has gone on to accumulate 96 appearances in all competitions.
He has arguably been one of the star performers for Thomas Tuchel’s men throughout the campaign, having notched four goals and provided as many assists in 12 outings – something that may not have been the case had Hysaj been signed