Maurizio Sarri and the tales of his life: Jose Mourinho once said that the Italian league was the most tactical one in the world. This reference might have come from his time at Inter Milan, where he won the treble. At the same time, a certain Maurizio Sarri was plying his trade in the lower leagues of Italy.
Sarri, the name which has taken a soft spot in many of our hearts, well, at least in the hearts of the admirers of ‘positional play’ or ‘lovers of neat football’, has changed the way we look at the game and not only that, Maurizio Sarri life, career and life have been nothing short of inspiration for those who want to make their way towards success at the highest level possible. A journey of hard work, courage and commitment. This story is about Maurizio Sarri and the tales of his life.
Maurizio Sarri Life before hanging His Boots:
Maurizio Sarri was born in the city of Naples in Italy. Due to his father’s job, he spent most of his childhood in Florence. Since his childhood, Sarri was particularly interested in the core details of the game. He had an eye for the game and a view, different from others. So, to take his interests in the game to a professional level, he started playing at the local team A.S.D. Giallo-Blu Figline, also known as Figline. As a footballer, Sarri used to play as a defender.
Unfortunately for him, he failed his trials at Fiorentina and Torino. At this point, he also started his journey as a banker for Banco Monte die Paschi di Siena in Tuscany.
An unexpected turn which was about to take him to a different path came in. Sarri got injured and after that, since then never the same. As a result, he had to hang up his boots.
Maurizio Sarri Coaching and Banking Life:
In 1990, Sarri started coaching U.S.D. Stia, a regional level team in Italy. This was a learning curve for Sarri as a manager. After a year at Stia, he had a lot of offers but all were from small-time clubs like Stia.
He later joined U.S. Faellese. Faellese was in the same town as Sarri lived. This way, Sarri used to juggle in between his life as a banker and as a manager. This ultimately paid off, as Sarri achieved promotion with Faellese. He later joined U.S.D Cavriglia and U.S. Antella, both the clubs achieved promotion with him as manager.
After two other clubs, he landed at Tegoloto. During his spell at Tegoloto, Sarri decided to quit the banking job to focus on full-time coaching.
Sarri joined Sansovino and achieved promotion to Serie D. He stayed there for two more years, during which, he even reached to the play-offs. His work at Sansovino made rounds in Serie C and thus Serie C2 side Sangiovannesse signed him up.
At Sansovino, he got the nickname of Mr. 33. The nickname was given because Sarri designed and prepared the team with 33 set-piece routines – an amount, that might blow the minds of that of an elite club.
Maurizio Sarri Road to Serie A:
At Sangiovannesse, things got really serious for Sarri. The club wanted to achieve promotion and was ambitious. Sarri wanted the same so, he didn’t have problems with the management. He went on to achieve promotion with Sangiovannesse as well.
Something strange did happen when he signed for second division side Azerro. Sarri came in for the recently sacked and current Inter Milan manager, Antonio Conte. This sequence would go on to repeat at Chelsea after Conte was sacked.
In 2012, Empoli signed Sarri. In the following season, Sarri finally reached the Serie A by achieving direct promotion. A journey this long enough deserved a happy ending, so Sarri went on to save the club from relegation in Serie A.
Maurizio Sarri Journey with Napoli:
Empoli, being a newly promoted team, played football that of an elite-level team. They gained a lot of admirers due to their high octane football. This caught the eye of Napoli and hence, Sarri quit Empoli and signed for Napoli in 2015. At Napoli, his approach to football was quickly observed as the team started its construction for something that went on to shock Italy and Europe.
In 2016, Gonzalo Higuain made rounds as he signed for reigning Italian champions Juventus for a sum of 90 million euros. The heavy sum was a culmination of Higuain scoring a record-breaking 36 goals in a season.
After getting that amount, instead of cashing it on an expensive striker, Sarri opted to fund it to mobilise and strengthen the other areas of the team. For the striker option, Sarri had Arkadiusz Milik, but he was getting injured. He looked upon Dries Mertens, a winger and developed him into a makeshift striker and more of a second striker role.
The 2017/18 season proved to be a game-changer for Napoli in Italy. Napoli’s march to claim the Serie A title was on the front foot giving Juventus a major competition to defend their title. That season, the game at the Allianz stadium had it all. Sarri showed the middle finger to the Juve fans when the team bus was entering the stadium parking. Napoli won at the very end to take all the three points and boost their title chances. But, they slipped up in the remaining few marches and eventually lost the title by four points to Juve.
Chelsea and Juventus stints:
Sarri finally moved to an elite team by signing for the London outfit Chelsea. On the deadline day, Chelsea brought in the world’s most expensive keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for the sum of 72 million pounds. The same summer, Chelsea after a battle with Manchester City to acquire Jorginho, won the battle and landed him, who was at the core of Sarri-ball at Napoli.
Sarri began the season on a strong foot by being at the top in the early match days. But, the team started to lose points eventually. Sarri’s Chelsea faced an embarrassing loss at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City by a whopping six-nil which created a spark of anger among the Chelsea fans.
Sarri left Chelsea after just one season and joined Juventus. The reason behind him leaving Chelsea was to stay close to his elderly parents in Italy. Sarri’s Juve received more critics than his Chelsea stint as even though the team won the Italian championship, they lost both Copa Italia and Supercopa Italiana finals. On top of these, Juve was eliminated from the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 by the hands of Lyon. Sarri faced the sacking.
Maurizio Sarri Tactics and Ideology:
Sarri’s main characteristics as a manager are his attention to detail, a strong belief in his philosophy, playing an attacking and attractive brand of football and many more.
Sarri, throughout his coaching career, has played one of 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-1-2 systems. His main principles are the implementation of zonal marking and the offside trap. Sarri is a big fan of Arrigo Sacchi, the then manager of AC Milan who introduced these setups in an era when catenaccio was the mainstay of Italy.
His flat back four is very proactive and organized, as he demands a very high backline up the pitch and expects his players to stay organised throughout ninety minutes. His midfield consists of a defensive midfielder who facilitates ball circulation in the first and second phases of the game and acts as the anchor of the team. The other two midfielders take up the roles as per the instructions given by Sarri.
His style of play is based on short and quick passes to eliminate the opposition lines and march forward towards the opposition goal. He is a believer of patient and precise play from the back. This is a testimony of his training sessions where the team is drilled to perfection with clear instructions.
Superstition and Controversies:
Sarri is popular among the fans for his brand of football but more importantly for his character. He has made a lot of headlines via his amusing and funny stories. Despite being a genius, he is a very superstitious man.
Cesc Fabregas once revealed that Sarri during his Chelsea tenure used to start training sessions at 3 pm. Due to this, Chelsea players were unable to spend time with their children. Some of the players got a bit furious and asked Sarri to change the timing to a more convenient time. Sarri replied that according to a scholar at the University of Pisa, training at 3 pm is the best time as it trains the bodies more effectively and gives better results.
During his lower league days, Sarri by accident, once dashed into one of his players’ car when entering the stadium. His team won, so, next week, he deliberately dashed onto the same car and his team won again. The list of these stories doesn’t end over here.
Gianfranco Zola, assistant manager of Sarri at Chelsea, revealed that once he and Sarri took Zola’s car to the training. Zola told Sarri not to smoke in the car as that would void the warranty. Sarri instead of stopping took a packet out and started smoking.
Napoli travelled to Leipzig during the 2017/18 Europa League campaign for the Round of 32. Due to Sarri’s habit of chain-smoking, they had to build a special smoking zone for Sarri.
Once Koulibaly was in a tactical meeting and his phone was ringing constantly. Napoli was to face Sassuolo. Koulibaly managed to answer the phone and was alerted that his wife was in labour. He told Sarri that he wouldn’t be able to sit throughout the meeting. Sarri was constantly requesting him to make it in time for the match. Koulibaly managed to reach the hospital in time to see the birth of his child. With permission from his wife, Koulibaly made it to the match and saw the teamsheet. His name wasn’t in the playing eleven. He confronted Sarri and asked the reason. Sarri replied that he wanted Koulibaly but on the bench.
Currently, Sarri is unemployed with the Italian being linked with Fiorentina, Roma. A lot of his stories aren’t spoken in public due to his close nature but Sarri has always been a top manager and is lauded by a lot of the managers for being that.
Watch a brief history about Maurizio sarri