After Juventus announced Massimiliano Allegri would be departing the club after five years, calcio fans were quick to drum up a list of potential successors. Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte (who has now joined Inter), and Lazio’s Simone Inzaghi were all names linked with the job.
However, surprising and even shocking rumors surfaced that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is the priority for President Andrea Agnelli. The potential move comes with massive amounts of controversy, seeing as Sarri spent three years with one of Juve’s biggest rivals, Napoli.
As expected, the rumours were not taken lightly in Naples. Many fans were quick to voice their anger at Sarri even being mentioned as a possible candidate for the job in Turin. “Traitor” is a word that was often heard from Napoli tifosi, considering the impact the 60-year-old tactician had on the Partenopei.
Sarri, a Neapolitan by birth, is often credited by many for allowing Napoli to dream again. His free-flowing style of play that proved so fruitful for the Azzurri was admired by many and allowed the club to be spoken of highly within world football. In the 2017-18 season, it seemed as if Sarri was finally going to bring Napoli their first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona era. They eventually came just short, losing out to Juventus by four points.
Do Napoli fans have a right to feel betrayed if Sarri joins Juve? The answer is simple: Yes.
It’s a similar situation to that of Gonzalo Higuain when he joined Juventus from Napoli back in the summer of 2016. Pipita’s departure was met with shouts of “traitor” and “snake”, as well as many burning the Argentine striker’s jersey as a representation of their anger. Higuain was loved by the people of Naples, and some fans believed he would be the successor to Maradona. This is why it hurt so much. Sarri finds himself in the same position, even if he did stop off at Chelsea along the way.
Sarri railed against the ‘powers that be’ represented by the Bianconeri, talking of the working-class revolution to rise up and take down the upper classes, those born with a silver spoon in their mouth and a Scudetto in their hand. He was meant to overturn the power structure in Serie A and end the Juventus hegemony, leading his people forward with cigarette in one hand and sword in the other.
Yet there was another revolution Sarri was meant to represent and he still can. While Allegri insisted the result was the only thing that mattered and beautiful football represented a waste of energy, Sarri was held up by Arrigo Sacchi, Pep Guardiola and many pundits as the best tactician in Italy. Juventus have won eight consecutive Serie A titles, but if anything, the enthusiasm has waned rather than built up. Boredom set in both on and off the pitch.
Italian football is famously obsessed with results and winning at all costs, so bringing in the artist of the beautiful game to run the most cynical of all clubs feels like a cultural revolution. Will he change Juve or will Juve change Sarri?
That is, of course, another reason why Napoli fans feel so betrayed. Sarri will be taking everything he applied and learned at the Stadio San Paolo and using it to strengthen what is already the best team in Italy. Napoli fans can’t even consider themselves moral victors now.
There are many that will argue that business is business, and at the end of the day, that’s true. Sarri will do what he believes is best for his career and that is something that he does on his own. He will take into consideration his goals as a Coach and how he wants to achieve those, however, that doesn’t make it any easier for Napoli fans to digest.
“If Sarri went to Juve, it would surely be a betrayal for us Neapolitans,” said captain Lorenzo Insigne. “Choosing Juve will hurt, but we must take note that the Coach is a professional and in Naples he gave his all. It is his own decision, but I hope in the end he will change his mind.”
He’s not the first Coach to join bitter rivals and he won’t be the last, but if Napoli do topple the powers, we know who will be first on the guillotine.
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