Could Maurizio Sarri switch Napoli for Chelsea in the summer?

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 16 January 2018, 14:33

Recent reports in both Italy and England have seen Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri move to the top of the list of favourites to replace Antonio Conte at Chelsea this summer, and who could blame them?

The Blues have a history of hiring men from the peninsula in recent years, and Sarri has become the heir Pep Guardiola’s throne in terms of slick passing and truly beautiful football.

His style – dubbed as “Sarrismo” – has attracted attention from admirers all over the world, with Pep himself perhaps dishing out the highest praise of all after the two sides met in the Champions League last October. “Napoli are one of the best teams I've faced in my career,” the tactician declared to BT Sport in his post-match comments. “No doubt about that. Maybe the best.”

Indeed Napoli are only behind Manchester City throughout Europe’s top five leagues in terms of number of passes per game, the Partenopei averaging 724.1 while Pep Guardiola’s men just pip them to first place with 727.8. Of that huge total number of passes Napoli manage to find a team-mate with a staggering 88%, while City maintain a slightly higher figure of 88.7%.

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Watching clips of Napoli’s superb play here and there would have anyone thinking that Chelsea would be mad not to go for the 59-year-old boss after the conclusion of the 2017/18 campaign, but there is more to this appointment than meets the eye. The Coach has enjoyed a slow and steady rise from quitting his role as a bank manager in 1990, reaching the Italian top-flight as recently as 2013.

His unorthodox path to to Serie A is undoubtedly testament to his tenacity and the very fact that he has Napoli pushing Juventus – a team that have won the last six consecutive league titles – so hard this season shows just what a talented boss he really is. It all depends on whether you adopt a “glass half-full” or a “glass half-empty” mentality, but there are some important caveats that Chelsea must be careful of here.

If supporters and press alike think Antonio Conte is awkward in press conferences, they are yet to witness one held by his compatriot Sarri. The Napoli boss is old-fashioned in the extreme, still chain-smoking on the touchline when so many would avoid such a social taboo. He courts controversy in his stubborn outlook, was accused by Roberto Mancini of a homophobic slur, and almost came to blows with Empoli owner Fabrizio Corsi whilst on his payroll.

While these incidents are somehow still par for the course in Italy, it is hard to imagine how such a polemic character would fit in abroad. Perhaps any such potential incident would be viewed as worthwhile by Chelsea, but the fact remains that – for all the beautiful football – Sarri is still to win a trophy with Napoli.

“My dream? It’s the Scudetto,” said Partenopei captain Marek Hamsik to Corriere dello Sport. “It’s not only my dream but also that of the fans, [owner Aurelio] De Laurentiis, my team-mates. I also think it’s the wish of those who love football because we play wonderfully-beautiful football, so I think we deserve to win it.”

The romantics among us certainly share the ideals of Hamsik, but the cold, hard reality is that the team who will come out with the trophy in May will not necessarily be the side who has played the nicest football, as Juventus continue to prove.

It is this issue that is at the very heart of the dilemma of whether Chelsea should go for the Italian this summer. A whimsical idea of beautiful Sarri football is contrasting indeed when you analyse the facts. Supporters of the London club might be reluctant to accept a man appointed who had never coached outside of Italy, with only 3.5 years top flight experience and no trophies to show for his efforts, you could probably guess the answer.

Sarri may well win the Scudetto this year, making his potential appointment at Stamford Bridge an entirely different proposition. However we all know that owner Roman Abramovich gives out no prizes for second place and beautiful football, meaning that the Napoli man must be sure before he makes the leap to the Premier League.

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