Chelsea signs former Napoli manager Sarri as new coach after Conte’s exit

Published 14.07.2018 13:53
Updated 14.07.2018 13:59
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IHA Photo

Chelsea named former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri as the new head coach on a three-year term on Saturday, a day after parting ways with another Italian manager Antonio Conte.

Chelsea on Friday split with Conte after two years with the former Italy manager having a year remaining on his current contract.

Sarri, 59, led Napoli to two second-place and one third-place finish in three seasons in charge. He won the Serie A Coach of the Year award in 2017.

"I am very happy to be coming to Chelsea and the Premier League. It is an exciting new period in my career," Sarri said in a Chelsea statement.

"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."

Sarri becomes Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's ninth full-time manager in his 15 years as owner less than 24 hours after Conte parted company.

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said: "We are delighted to welcome Maurizio and are looking forward to him bringing his football philosophy to Chelsea."

Sarri, a chain-smoking former banker, said he would be starting his new job "and meeting the players" on Monday ahead of Chelsea' pre-season Australia tour.

Chelsea believe they have got in Sarri an astute tactician who produces sides playing exciting football with his three years at Napoli harvesting two second-placed finishes in Serie A.

"Maurizio's Napoli side played some of the most exciting football in Europe, impressing with their attacking approach and dynamism, and his coaching methods significantly improved the players at his disposal," noted Granovskaia.

Sarri earned praise from the likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for the way he turned around the fortunes of Napoli from 2015-18, returning the team to the Champions League and almost snatching the Italian league title from Juventus with his innovative way of thinking and attention to detail.

Sarri's Napoli was a team that attacked relentlessly with free-flowing ball movement and constant running, just like City under Guardiola.

It scored 94 goals in the 2016-17 season in Serie A, the highest return of any top-flight Italian club since the turn of century.

The style of play became widely known as "Sarri-ball."

After toiling in relative obscurity in the Italian lower divisions in the early part of his coaching career — he used to work in a bank by day and coach at night — Sarri finally reached the top division in 2014 via promotion with Empoli at the age of 55. Then he joined Napoli, helping the club to two second-place finishes in Serie A and winning Coach of the Year award in 2017.

Tellingly, Chelsea said in its statement presenting Sarri as manager that he "earned praise for his ability to reshape the structure of the (Napoli) squad, nurturing some of the club's younger talents with hugely positive results."

Chelsea has a very successful youth team, but youngsters have found it hard to break into the first team and instead have been sent out on loan.

Sarri smokes, wears retro spectacles, and hunches over to jot down notes on a small pad during matches. He will certainly be a distinctive character in the era of the "super coach" in the Premier League, with his managerial rivals including Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Juergen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.

Former manager Conte joined the club in 2016 and led them to the league title in his debut season along with an FA Cup triumph last campaign.

He had already taken charge of pre-season preparations at the club's Cobham training ground outside London but his relationship with Chelsea's hierarchy was strained after disagreements over their transfer policy last season.

Conte's days were numbered after he fell out with the board and senior players, although he had the best win percentage 65.1% of any of Chelsea's managers in the Premier League era.

Under Conte, Chelsea failed to qualify for the coming season's Champions League after finishing fifth in the Premier League. The team will now play in the Europa League.

Chelsea will take on Huddersfield Town in their opening fixture of the new Premier league campaign on Aug. 11.

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