LONDON – Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri gave the strongest hint yet that he wishes to return to Italy and probably take the Juventus job by saying he misses his friends and elderly parents.
The 60-year-old former Napoli coach has been strongly linked with the Juventus job left vacant after Massimiliano Allegri resigned following a highly successful five-year spell in charge, which included five league titles, four Coppa Italia’s and reaching two Champions League finals.
Sarri, who unusually for a top football coach came to the sport after a successful career as a banker, has enjoyed a fine end to a rollercoaster season with Chelsea.
He failed to win over a section of fans but still guided Chelsea to the Europa League trophy – the 4-1 win over Arsenal bringing him his first piece of silverware – third place in the Premier League and lost to Manchester City on penalties in the League Cup final.
However, Sarri – whose departure will cost Juventus £5 million – told Vanity Fair magazine it has been a “heavy year”.
And the ex-Napoli chief is aware that next year will be potentially tougher, with the likely departure of playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, and the club coming under a Uefa transfer ban and unable to find a replacement.
But the pull away from London is largely personal, explained Sarri.
“For us Italians, the call of home is strong,” Sarri told Vanity Fair.
“I feel that something is missing. It has been a heavy year. I begin to feel the weight of distant friends and elderly parents I rarely see.
“But at my age, I only make professional choices. I won’t be able to work for 20 years. It’s hard work, the bench.”
The manner of Sarri’s leaving will be far more cordial than that of his Italian predecessor Antonio Conte, who pursued Chelsea over his sacking, and was awarded a reported £9 million at a Premier League tribunal last month.
Sarri, though, does not believe if he takes the Juventus job, it will upset Napoli fans.
He enjoyed an impressive three-year spell there from 2015-18, guiding them twice to the runners-up spot, and the other season third place in Serie A and earning himself the Serie A coach of the year in 2016/17.
“The Neapolitans know the love I feel for them. I chose to move abroad last year, and not to go on to the Italian team,” said Sarri.
“The relationship will not change. Loyalty is giving 110% when you are there. What does it mean to be faithful?”
Italian international Jorginho, who Sarri brought with him from Napoli, wants him to stay, and is not so sure the Neapolitans will take so kindly to him accepting the Juventus post.
“The Napoli fans still have him in their hearts; it’s normal that they could get angry,” Jorginho said in comments published in the British media.
“They could treat it as a betrayal; they’re like that. We’ll see what happens.”
Names mentioned as potential successors to Sarri include former Chelsea star Frank Lampard, who guided Derby County to the Championship playoff final in his debut season as a manager, although some feel he is still too raw for the challenge.AFP