"When a player is having fun, they play twice as well," said new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri. Will the 59-year-old bring joy to Stamford Bridge?
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Maurizio Sarri has been confirmed as the new manager of Chelsea; here's what you need need to know about the Blues' 59-year-old coach.
He coaches for love
Asked in 2015 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."
He is a football obsessive
The workaholic Sarri was nicknamed 'Mister 33' after reportedly preparing 33 set plays for use at dead-ball situations while at Sansovino. "We only used four or five of them in the end," he later explained. Sarri prepares for games meticulously, studying opponents in depth to identify potential weaknesses.
His sides play exciting, attacking football
After his Manchester City side beat Sarri's Napoli 2-1 at home in last season's UEFA Champions League, Josep Guardiola said: "We faced one of the best sides I faced in my career – probably the best." While his sides are always founded on solid defences, Sarri's 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, with players interchanging freely – especially the front three. His Napoli side employed high-pressing and short passing combinations to prise teams open; they scored 80 Serie A goals in 2015/16, a club-record 94 in 2016/17 and 77 in the most recent campaign.
He has yet to win a major trophy
In three seasons, the 59-year-old Italian coach led Napoli to two second-place finishes and one third-place finish. They topped the table for much of the most recent campaign but missed out on a first Scudetto since 1990 as they were overtaken by Juventus in the spring.
He has replaced Antonio Conte before
Sarri was called in to take over at struggling Serie B side Arezzo – his hometown club – in 2006/07 after a disappointing start under Conte. Sarri secured some great results (a 2-2 away draw against a Juventus XI featuring Gianluigi Buffon, David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero, a 1-0 Coppa Italia home win against AC Milan) but was relieved of his duties before the end of the campaign, Conte being recalled to oversee the Dark Reds' relegation.
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."