"When a player is having fun, they play twice as well," reckons Maurizio Sarri. Will he bring joy to Juventus?
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Fresh from winning the first significant trophy of his career, the UEFA Europa League, Maurizio Sarri has left Chelsea for Juventus on a three-year contract. Here's what you need to know about the 60-year-old coach.
He will look to bring pizzazz to Juve
Juventus expect to be the dominant force in Italian football; they would love to be entertainers too. Under Massimiliano Allegri, Juve maintained their stranglehold on Serie A, but many would prefer to see them play like Sarri's all-action Napoli did from 2015–18. It may take time and patience for his ideas to bed in, but he will not change his attacking philosophy and great things could come if he gets the players on side.
Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, should welcome Sarri with open arms; strikers love playing for him. Gonzalo Higuaín scored 36 Serie A goals under Sarri in 2015/16, and when the Argentinian left for Juventus the following season, Sarri reinvented Dries Mertens as Napoli's 'false No9': the Belgian responded with 28 league goals that season, demolishing his personal records. A similar role for CR7 is certainly a possibility.
His sides aim to play exciting, attacking football
After his Manchester City side beat Sarri's Napoli 2-1 at home in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League, Josep Guardiola said: "We faced one of the best sides I faced in my career – probably the best." Former AC Milan and Italy boss Arrigo Sacchi likes Sarri's style too, saying: "He is a genius."
While Sarri's sides are always founded on solid defences, his tactical thinking has evolved, from a 4-2-3-1, to a 4-3-1-2 at Empoli (2012–15) and a more fluid 4-3-3 at Napoli and Chelsea. His Napoli side were always prolific and scored a club-record 94 league goals in 2016/17.
He has learned from his time at Chelsea
Sarri faced criticism at Stamford Bridge but came through to guide the Blues to a third-place finish and UEFA Europa League glory (the first major trophy of Sarri's career). While never deviating from his favoured 4-3-3, Sarri did alter his side's outlook at times – occasionally switching to a more defensive variant – and also began to introduce fresh faces into his starting XI.
Indeed, one of his lasting gifts to the west London club will be the development of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, both of whom were handed starting berths and repaid the 60-year-old with goals, assists and crowd-pleasing displays.
He coaches for love
Asked in 2015, during his time at Empoli, whether he was angry that he was the lowest-paid Serie A coach, Sarri replied: "Angry? Are you joking? They pay me for something I would have done for free after work. I'm lucky." They were not empty words.
Sarri started coaching in Italy's lower leagues in his spare time while studying economics and working in a bank. Hired by sixth-tier Sansovino in 2000/01, he promised to quit coaching for good if his side did not win the league. They did, prompting him to make football his day job, explaining: "I finally decided I needed to focus exclusively on coaching if I wanted to achieve results."
The take-home quotes
"Our aim is to play beautifully. We like playing good football, enjoying ourselves and entertaining."
"I was more rigid early in my career. I thought tactics were the most important thing. Now I know that there is a small child inside every player and a coach must not forget the playful part of the game because, after all, football is a game. When a player is having fun, they play twice as well."