Gianfranco Zola claims Chelsea were ‘so close’ to signing Cagliari’s Nicolo Barella, who still ‘must grow’ before he can play for a big team.
Chelsea were heavily linked with Barella in January after they lost Cesc Fabregas, and Zola revealed just how near the Blues were to getting a deal over the line for the midfielder.
“We were so close,” Maurizio Sarri’s No 2 told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“He’s strong and Sarri has always liked him, but then things fell through.”
Zola gave the 22-year-old his senior debut in January 2015, when he was Cagliari Coach, and he was asked about his fellow Sardinian.
"I gave Nicolo his debut at Parma in the Coppa Italia,” he explained.
“At 17 he had the tools and character of the great player, but to play for a big club he must grow. His attitude isn’t lacking.”