Chelsea’s appointment of Maurizio Sarri as their new coach has added yet another layer of intrigue to this Premier League campaign, with many observers keen to see how the former Napoli boss, who has been regularly been heralded as an innovator and a genius by leading lights of the football fraternity, does in the Premier League.
The 60-year-old coach has spent most of his career in the lower reaches of Italian football, but after impressing in Serie A with newly promoted Empoli he earned a move to Napoli in 2015.
Although he was ultimately unable to break Juventus’ stranglehold on the Scudetto, Sarri’s Napoli were widely regarded to be the most attractive team to watch in Europe last season, due to his progressive possession-based approach.
It will of course be fascinating to see whether his philosophy can be a success for Chelsea in the rough and tumble of the Premier League but until then let’s take a look at some of the best quotes about the chain-smoking Italian.
“For somebody like me, who loves watching games at home on the sofa, Napoli are spectacular and his brand of football is a joy to watch. Often a coach is judged on wins, but you’ve also got to look at the shape as well as the substance – Sarri had Empoli and Napoli playing great football, and he did a fantastic job.” Pep Guardiola.
“Every 20 years there is an innovation in football. After Ajax there was Sacchi’s Milan, then Guardiola, who rather sent football to sleep. Fortunately now we’ve got Sarri, who can wake football up again.” Fabio Capello.
“He really is a genius, he sees things others don’t see. Sarri makes you understand how football is and isn’t unpredictable. He’s a scholar. Any question you ask him, he always has an answer, and it’s always right. He helps you to think as a team and not an individual. In short, with Sarri football is maths.” Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly
“Sarri taught me football, we’re led by a commandant who has changed everyone’s life. Sarri has transferred to us his way of understanding football, a philosophy which distinguishes us from the others and which allows us to express our game in the best way. The thing I love the most about his style of football is the way he organises the phases when we are off the ball and structures the pressure we put on opponents when they’ve got the ball at their feet. It feels like he has already played the game out in his head and on the field you have an extra man.” Dries Mertens.
“When you see Sarri’s teams play, you know how they train. He is a genius. When I was technical director with the Italy youth teams, I always went to watch kids in Serie B, and I was already impressed by his Empoli. He looks after the players, they understand him.” Arrigo Sacchi.
“Sarri has been fundamental in my growth, a very good tactical trainer, he gave me important bases that will stay with me forever. He is charismatic, he knows how to charge you and send you to the field with the right determination, but when it comes to helping and reassuring a boy he is able to do it.” Juventus and Italy defender Daniele Rugani.
“Many of his training sessions are based on endless repetition, so that players get the co-ordination and timing essential to his game. Sarri tends to do this at a high pace, to ensure his sessions do not run for hours and to stop players getting bored. That emphasis on chemistry and repetition allows his players to pass the ball confidently into space, knowing a team-mate will be there or on his way.” Journalist Gabriel Marcotti.
— 🗿 (@Havertz29FC) July 14, 2018
“He has helped me so much early on, he made me feel like a player who is indispensable. At times for a player, dialogue can be the most important thing. He’s a bit like a father for me.” Gonzalo Higuain.
“He’s fond of quoting his grandad, his grandad liked to say to him ‘we’re here to play football, not to unload a lorry. So I don’t need big hefty fellas actually, I want guys who can play with the ball. It’s not for nothing that he has these three little men up front in Callejon, Mertens, and Insigne who are three terrific footballers but guys who are knee-high to a grasshopper. He sticks with them, and he sticks with them because he believes in that type of football.” Journalist Paddy Agnew.
“I have no doubts that Sarri is one of the best managers out there,” Guardiola gushed. “He achieved something incredible with Napoli. His style of football is as good as a drink in the sun.” Pep Guardiola.