MILAN (Reuters) – Serie A champions Juventus appointed Maurizio Sarri as their new coach on Sunday, hoping that his ambitious possession-based game would extend their dominance of Italian football and bring them European silverware.
British media reported Juventus agreed a compensation fee with Chelsea in excess of 5 million pounds for Sarri, who joins the Italian giants on a three-year contract.
Sarri was at Chelsea for just one season, where he won the Europa League — the first major trophy of his career — and led them to a third-placed finish in the Premier League.
On paper it was a commendable feat, but it was a rocky campaign for the former Napoli boss whose team never seemed to fully adapt to his so-called “Sarri-ball” system.
“In talks we had following the Europa League final, Maurizio made it clear how strongly he desired to return to his native country, explaining that his reasons for wanting to return to work in Italy were significant,” Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said in a statement.
“He also believed it important to be nearer his family, and for the well-being of his elderly parents he felt he needed to live closer to them at this point.”
The chain-smoking 60-year-old coach replaced the phlegmatic Massimiliano Allegri who won five successive Serie A titles in as many seasons in charge — extending Juve’s run to eight in a row — plus the Coppa Italia four times. He also led them to two Champions League finals.
The move is likely to infuriate supporters at Napoli, where Sarri spent three seasons and turned them into the team most likely to threaten Juve’s dominance.
Napoli finished as runners-up twice and third place once under Sarri’s leadership and achieved a club record 91 points in the 2017-18 when they came agonisingly close to snatching the title — even beating Juve 1-0 in Turin towards the end of the season.
Juventus seemed to lack a recognisable playing style under Allegri, a pragmatic coach who last season fielded 38 different lineups in 38 league matches.
That will not be the case under Sarri, who turned Napoli into the most eye-catching Serie A side with their complex passing movements.
His style, however, makes huge demands of the players and Sarri was also criticised at Napoli over his failure to rest players, something which could prove a problem at Juventus who have more strength-in-depth and will be battling on two fronts.
He will also have to find a way of incorporating Cristiano Ronaldo into his team. The 34-year-old, with two years of his Juventus contract still to run, is still lethal in small bursts but not able to maintain such a high tempo over 90 minutes.
A former bank employee, Sarri never played football professionally and made his Serie A coaching debut at the age of 55 with Empoli after winning promotion with them in 2014.
Known as “Mr 33”, because he reputedly thought up 33 different plans for setpieces, Sarri quickly innovated at Napoli by using a drone to film training sessions from above.
Sarri began coaching amateur teams back in the 1990s, managing to combine his hobby with a banking career that took him to the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
He coached 16 different sides in the lower division of the Italian league before finally reaching Serie A with Empoli.
(Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)