Football's worst kept secret is out: Maurizio Sarri replaces Antonio Conte at Chelsea

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 14 July 2018, 09:43

It has been one of football’s worst kept secrets for quite some time, but Chelsea have finally got their man in Maurizio Sarri.

Since Napoli opted to appoint Carlo Ancelotti and place their previous Coach on gardening leave – which is standard practice in Italy – the Blues have been negotiating with President Aurelio De Laurentiis over a compensation package. This has proved to be increasingly difficult as the Partenopei owner stood firm, leaving Antonio Conte in limbo at Stamford Bridge, the former Italy boss even having taken charge of training this week.

Today that saga was finally over as Chelsea officially announced that the tactician had signed a three-year deal with the Blues. “I am very happy to be coming to Chelsea and the Premier League,” admitted Sarri to the the club’s official website on undertaking his first ever job outside Italy.

“It is an exciting new period in my career.

“I look forward to starting work and meeting the players on Monday ahead of travelling to Australia, where I will be able to get to know the squad and begin our match action.

"I hope we can provide some entertaining football for our fans, and that we will be competing for trophies at the end of the season, which is what this club deserves.”

It was initially suggested that Napoli were waiting for the release clauses to expire on a number of their high-value players on June 30 before allowing the Coach to be freed from his contract, the Serie A side rightly concerned that Chelsea may well swoop in for them. With Sarri’s extremely precise way of working – bordering on obsession – the new boss was always bound to want to bring players in that were already well-versed in his methods in order to speed up what will already be a painstaking transition.

“Chelsea? I never received any phone calls,” suggested De Laurentiis in mid-June.

“I want something to be clear: this isn’t a city you can pillage, this isn’t a club you should underestimate. I haven’t heard from Sarri, he never called me. After the match against Crotone, I waited for him, but neither he nor his agent [Alessandro] Pellegrini contacted me. I acknowledged this and thought back to something my father said: nothing should surprise you in life.”

As mentioned in this previous post, Chelsea supporters may have to be patient while Sarri implements his ultra-meticulous style of play, however they can look forward to a much more positive approach to the game than under Conte. The Sarrismo style at Napoli won hordes of admirers both at home and abroad, most notably by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola when the two sides met in the Champions League group stages early last season.

"They have a big ability to make short passes. It is one of best teams I ever faced as a professional,” the Catalan tactician admitted in a post-match press conference. “That is why I am so proud because you cannot beat Napoli unless you produce a good performance."

Guardiola’s assessment of their opponent’s passing game was indeed accurate as Napoli (725.9 passes per match) were second only to Manchester City’s tally of 743.2 in all of Europe’s top five leagues. Midfielder Jorginho was absolutely vital to Sarri’s plan in this way, the Italian international having finished above any other player in the aforementioned leagues in terms of number of passes for the last three seasons in a row.

It seemed all-but certain that Jorginho would leave Naples for Manchester this summer, as reports suggested that a deal was virtually complete. It was no surprise that Guardiola wanted to work with the man who had passed more than anyone else, yet his eventual decision to join his old boss at Chelsea should definitely excite the club’s supporters.

Centre-back Daniele Rugani may also join from Juventus, a man who some may not realise has also worked with Sarri in the past. Juve loaned the 23-year-old back to Empoli for two seasons after having signed him permanently from the Tuscan club’s youth system in 2013, a period that happily coincided with the tactician’s spell there.

It may take time for the results to come – and Maurizio Sarri will certainly not be one to forge a happy relationship with the English press – but after a long wait Chelsea have finally got their man. What is for sure is that those Blues supporters are about to see some truly beautiful football at Stamford Bridge.

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