For weeks since Napoli confirmed the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea supporters have been clamouring for Russian owner Roman Abramovich to bring in Maurizio Sarri to replace their Premier League-winning Italian Coach Antonio Conte.
The Blues are keen to answer those calls, but have so far struggled to agree a compensation package with Napoli. What seems clear though, is that Abramovich has identified Sarri as his man.
After a below-par 2017-18 season for the Londoners under Conte’s guidance, it was obvious in the results Chelsea needed a change at the post; a rebranding of their football style. The ex-Juventus manager’s high-octane personality paid dividends in year one at the club, as his man-management and approach to squeezing every ounce of ability from his group was awe-inspiring. Yet, although it brought Chelsea a title, it became clear that this marriage wasn’t to be everlasting, more so for the fact the former Champions League winners needed a stimulating, more offensive-minded Coach – and that is where Sarri comes into play.
Similarly to what we have witnessed recently with the success of Pep Guardiola’s offensive-juggernaut Manchester City, Sarri’s Napoli played one of the most sleek styles of football during his three-year tenure. The free-flowing, choreography-like brand known as ‘Sarrismo’ grabbed the attention of not only those who frequented calcio on the Peninsula, but spectators outside Italy whose curiosity led them to the city of Naples for their own perspective on things.
Last year, the Partenopei’s valiant effort to dethrone rivals Juventus and hoist the Serie A trophy for the first time in nearly 30 years came up just short. Sarri was criticised at times for his stubbornness and reluctance in rotation to ensure his men could maintain the tempo throughout the campaign. However, Sarri was able to push a stacked Bianconeri side to the end on a relatively thin budget through elevating certain individuals to punch above their weight and impress more people than was expected.
Stars like Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly, Elseid Hysaj, Faouzi Ghoulam, Allan and Jorginho were among the many beneficiaries of Sarri. But the mere thought of the 59-year old chain-smoking boss entering the fray at Stamford Bridge and retooling the squad to fit his scheme with a larger operating budget is an intriguing concept.
Sarri, a banker turned coach, manoeuvred his way up the ranks of Italian calcio, first managing very small sides before landing a gig in Serie B with Pescara. Gradually, his football ethos and success leading provincial clubs like Sorrento showed that even with minimal talent at his disposal, he could demonstrate a sleek brand that had staying power in the higher divisions.
Sarri’s ability to defy odds, mould youngsters like Daniele Rugani and keep Empoli afloat in the top flight is what eventually led him to Naples where he was able to go mainstream in world football. Beyond personnel changes and the transfer market that Chelsea are currently behind schedule on, the Italian Coach stepping into English football with one of his strongest admirers in Pep may create a ripple effect in the way Premier League outfits recruit coaches. Whatever the case, there is no denying that English football fans are ready for more minds like Sarri and Pep to enter the league and be the home of revolutionary football brains.