He hasn’t been in England for long, but Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is already working his magic at Stamford Bridge. Despite not having won any major trophies in his career, the Italian is greatly respected in the game and has brought his own distinctive style of football, nicknamed Sarriball, to the London club. But who is the chain-smoking Italian and how did he get to this point?
Born in Naples, Sarri quickly developed a love for the beautiful game, but discovered that his own technical ability couldn’t quite match his tactical ideas. He read the game better than he played it, and despite having trials with a couple of major teams, he called time on his career before it even began. He continued playing football casually in his free time while working as a banker, and only got into coaching at the age of 40.
Sarri’s career began in the lower leagues of the Italian football system, where he guided several small sides to promotion and worked his way up the ranks. In 2001, with a decade of coaching behind him, he quit banking and dedicated himself to football full-time, quickly becoming knowing for his meticulous tactical approach and astonishing levels of pre-match preparation.
He moved up to Serie C and B before eventually helping Empoli into Serie A and catching the eye of the big clubs. In 2015, Sarri’s boyhood dream came true as he was appointed manager of Napoli. Only a decade earlier, he’d been down in the depths of the Italian leagues coaching amateur sides, and now he was at the helm of one of Italy’s greatest clubs.
He quickly established Napoli as major title contenders, and despite missing out on any trophies during his stay at the club, Sarri was beloved by supporters and admired by other managers for his shrewd tactical awareness and intense, attacking brand of football. It was this reputation that led to him being awarded his current position at Chelsea.
Unlike other managers who found themselves in lucrative first-time coaching jobs due to their reputations as players, Sarri had to work his way up from the bottom. His journey is one of the most fascinating and impressive stories in modern football management, and Chelsea could provide the fairy-tale happy ending the 59-year-old deserves.
At Chelsea, Sarri has the players to win trophies and the squad has quickly taken to his fast-paced, compact style of play. The additions of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have added a lot to the midfield, making Chelsea a more threatening team in the final third while maintaining their defensive solidity, and Sarriball is already inspiring a lot of hope and excitement among the Stamford Bridge faithful.
Under previous manager Antonio Conte, Chelsea were tough to break down but lacked attacking flair and finesse in the final third. With Sarri, their strikers still haven’t quite found their form, but the team is creating a huge amount of chances with short passes and bursts of acceleration that constantly catch opposition defenders off-guard.
At other clubs, the fact that the main strikers are failing to find the net would be seen as a crisis, but at Chelsea, with Sarri’s tactics in full effect, it hasn’t actually been a major problem. The addition of Jorginho has allowed N’Golo Kante to move further forward and get more involved in attacking transitions, Eden Hazard is looking world-class, and Sarri is getting the best of lesser-used players like Pedro and Ross Barkley too.
In short, Chelsea look like title contenders again and a big part of that is down to the influence of Sarri. The Italian has enjoyed a near-perfect start to life at Stamford Bridge so far. He hasn’t had any major tests just yet, but his players are showing a lot of positive signs. If things carry on this way, the sight of Sarri finally lifting a trophy seems almost inevitable.