It’s hard to avoid a wince when someone asks for Parmesan on their pasta with a seafood sauce. And many of us felt it was a similar faux pas when Juventus appointed Maurizio Sarri in the summer. Could these prime preachers of ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’ really add a sprinkle of ‘let me entertain you’ to their footballing philosophy?
That’s an over-simplification of the situation, for sure, but there’s a grain of truth somewhere inside. For most of his career, the former Napoli Coach has found himself on the side of the underdog in his most important matches with the odds stacked against him. How will it feel for him to go into the biggest game of the Serie A season so far - the Derby d’Italia - with a victory the expectation rather than simply the aspiration?
In truth, he tackled a few of these issues during his short sojourn in England. Before he went to Chelsea, he had a reputation in Italy for delivering beautiful football, but with a bit of an allergy to silverware. Most fans at Stamford Bridge would confirm that he tackled both of those claims by lifting a trophy, but without regularly producing anything like the attractive play that had been his hallmark in his homeland.
Now he faces a new challenge at the Allianz Juventus Stadium, where he no longer has any excuses for not winning things. This is a club that has the Scudetto - at the very least - in its DNA and anything less will not be easily accepted. No longer will it be sufficient to earn plaudits for your performances without something concrete to show for it. La Vecchia Signora is a demanding mistress.
The transformation he is expected to carry out was never going to happen overnight and there have been some occasional signs of weakness from his team so far. The simple fact that they find themselves playing catch-up to Inter is something that is a bit of a novelty for the Bianconeri. Italy’s most powerful club is unlikely to settle for being plucky losers.
That wasn’t always the case for Sarri’s sides in the past, of course. However, his managerial record against Juventus has seen him lose twice as many as he has won. Now he must show that he is just as comfortable at the helm of a finely tuned winning machine as he has been with sides where spectacle was sometimes a substitute for success.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that he is coming up against a man who is almost his polar opposite. Nobody could ever imagine Antonio Conte being worried about pretty patterns if they failed to produce points. Plus, he knows his opponents inside out from years within Serie A’s most regularly triumphant organisation.
How comfortable Sarri will be in his new position among the favourites to win pretty much every competition he enters remains to be seen. Will he end up having to sacrifice style for substance? Can he combine both power and panache? What heights can he scale if he manages to unleash all the potential of this club by allying its addiction to trophies with a sprinkling of sexy football? The mind boggles.
Some more answers will be delivered on Sunday night in the special surroundings of San Siro. It will give us more early insight into where this new era is heading for both Coach and club. Will he be able to settle into his new surroundings like a comfy old tracksuit? Or will he ultimately remain a little incongruous in such illustrious circumstances - like that grated cheese atop some luscious langoustine?