How will Maurizio Sarri cope at Juventus?

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 17 June 2019, 12:15

Even after having won the Europa League with Chelsea at the end of last season, there still seems to be two different schools of thought regarding Maurizio Sarri.

One is that since he made his debut as a Coach in Italy’s top flight with Empoli in 2014/15, he has improved in every campaign, setting a new club record points total in each of his three seasons with Napoli, then earning a trophy and a third-place finish in his first outing in the Premier League.

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Yet some still think that the Italian remains a small-time boss, one that was incapable of reproducing the beautiful style of play seen in Naples once he had moved to England. For many in Italy, Sarri will always be a provincial Coach, and he leaves Chelsea with many English supporters and pundits still unsure of his supposed abilities.

The latter group will have been shocked to learn on Sunday that his departure from Stamford Bridge was in order that he fill the vacant role left by Max Allegri at Juventus. Perhaps even his most fervent supporters felt the same.

Let’s put this appointment into perspective.

Juve are a side that are different to the rest in Italy in many respects. One of very few clubs to own their own stadium, the Old Lady has pulled away from the competition in a financial sense, which has been highlighted in their eight consecutive league titles.

Their corporate stance on a new logo and controversial new shirt without their traditional stripes indicates a break with tradition in order to become one of the top players in European competition, their stated aim to win the Champions League for the first time since 1996.

Such a business-like approach fits with something that is often described as Lo Stile Juve, a moniker that means “the Juventus style”, pointing towards their elegance, professionalism and a winning mentality. Indeed, their club motto “winning is not important, it is the only thing that counts.”

The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer was another move that surprised many, yet this player fits in with their ethos of promoting their brand outside of Italy.

Their failure to advance in Europe last season was the reason why chairman Andrea Agnelli decided that Allegri’s time was up, and it made sense that they would go for someone with a proven pedigree such as Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola or Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham.

However, it was a different Maurizio that was eventually announced, and he comes in completely at odds with what was expected. Firstly, a lack of top-flight experience and a poor Champions League record does not instill confidence that he can smash through the glass ceiling that was repeatedly hit by Allegri.

His demeanour is nothing like what is expected in Turin, the smart and elegant city the complete opposite of Sarri’s gruff and sometimes unkempt appearance. How the boss chooses to dress obviously should not matter, yet somehow in this case it only serves to highlight what a strange choice this seems on the surface.

Sarri has very little experience of how to manage experienced international players and suddenly he has to teach his football to one of the very best players in the world.

The Old Lady only have a limited amount of time before veteran stars Giorgio Chiellini and Ronaldo are past their best, and it made sense to bring a Coach in who could win now, one with a track record that suited their ambitions.

Maurizio Sarri is clearly not that man, but this is perhaps a change of direction that Juventus sorely needed. Their lack of credible competition for the Serie A title had made them stale and complacent under Allegri, their playing style dull and old-fashioned compared to the dynamism of sides such as Ajax.

If there was anyone who could pull this club out of that rut and shake them up, it’s Sarri. His no-nonsense approach is the antithesis of the laid-back professionalism and media-savvy outlook seen for years in Turin, and Agnelli is intelligent enough to see that for himself.

One thing is for sure, after his first campaign at Juve, one of the two schools of thought on Maurizio Sarri will be proven right. His rags-to-riches story will either take another dramatic turn, or his detractors will be able to say that this was one step too far for this small-time boss.

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