London (AFP) – A chainsmoking former banker who doesn’t believe coaching a football team is worthy of the term ‘work’, Maurizio Sarri, who is reportedly set to take over from the sacked Antonio Conte as Chelsea manager, is certainly not the norm.
The 59-year-old — who would become Roman Abramovich’s ninth full-time manager in his 15 years as owner — couldn’t be more different in terms of background to his fellow Italian Conte.
He may not have a trophy to his name, but he turned Napoli into genuine title contenders.
They finished second twice and third on the other occasion behind Juventus, last season becoming the first club to break the 90-points barrier and fall short of the league crown.
However, Sarri has shown a desire to be unorthodox and break the mould.
His family were labourers — his father a construction worker — but he became an international banker.
For 20 years he mixed working for Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which saw him based in several different countries, with working for lower-league and non-league clubs.
His command of English will serve him well with communicating with the players from the start, unlike Conte who could not speak English when he arrived.
However, despite his high-flying banking career he has not forgotten his roots — a grandfather fought for the partisans in World War II against the Germans — and he is enraged when he hears some of the hyperbole attached to football.
“When I go to lead a training session I never say to my family: ‘I’m going to work,'” he told the newspaper Avvenire.
“I come from a family of labourers, and if I hear someone talking about ‘sacrifices’ in football, I get mad.”
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Indeed Sarri — who is clearly not from the Bill Shankly school of saying football is much more serious than life and death — is on record as saying he would do the job for free.
“A tough life is getting up at six every morning and going to work in a factory assembly line, not this one,” he said.
“Coaching is the only job I would contemplate doing for free.”
Sarri, though, appears to be a more flexible character than Conte, the latter having driven some of the senior players to distraction with his intense training sessions and also his lack of personal warmth.