Maurizio Sarri’s journey to the top of Italian football has been long and arduous.
Sarri’s first foray into coaching came at the age of 31 via U.S.D Stia in 1990 while juggling work commitments – foreign currency trader by day, coach by night. That combination of banking and amateur football continued until he devoted himself to coaching in the early 2000s.
Years in the lower tiers of Italian football saw Sarri gain promotion with the likes of Sansovino, who he led to Coppa Italia Serie D glory in 2002-03, and Sangiovannese. There were also brief and forgettable stints in charge of Pescara, Arezzo, Avellino, Hellas Verona and Perugia.
It was not until 2014 that Sarri had his first taste of Serie A after guiding Empoli to promotion at the age of 55. A surprise move to Napoli followed 12 months later – the Naples-born coach, who grew up in Tuscany, an unpopular choice among fans and even club great Diego Maradona.
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But Sarri revolutionised Napoli and Italian football with his attacking and free-flowing brand, earning admirers from far and wide. Head-hunted by Chelsea following two runners-up medals in Naples, Sarri now finds himself at the helm of Serie A champions Juventus after leading the Blues to Europa League glory in his one and only campaign at Stamford Bridge in 2018-19 for his first major title.
Sarri’s appointment at Juve has raised eyebrows, questions asked due to his Napoli links and philosophy – his approach in complete contrast to Bianconeri teams of years gone by. With eight years of domestic domination, Sarri has been tasked with leading the Old Lady to Champions League success after five runners-up medals since their last triumph in 1996.
Former midfielder Luca Tognozzi knows Sarri better than most. He was a favourite of the 60-year-old, following Sarri to Sansovino, Sangiovannese and Pescara.
“The chance and his decision to land to Juventus team I think he is the right person in the right place at the right time,” Tognozzi told Omnisport. “He deserves this opportunity for several reasons: the way with which his teams played in recent years, results he achieved always.
“I am sure his dedication to daily work, his wilfulness and his adaptability will immediately give his mark. He is in the most important Italian football team and will also have the opportunity to entertain his audience with his personal way of making his teams play to be able to fight to achieve great results.
“I think all this is the right reward, if you can say so, for a man and for a coach who too late he got a chance to be a trainer in a team that can be highly competitive in all European competition. I am very happy for him because he deserves all of this.”
Tognozzi enjoyed success with Sarri at Sansovino, where the pair helped the club move up to Serie C2 from Serie D. Tognozzi then followed the coach to Sangiovannese in 2003 and promotion to Serie C1 was achieved.
“Sarri has always been Sarri,” said the 41-year-old, who also played for Sarri at Pescara in 2005-06. “Certainly, over the years he has also had the capability and the smartness to evolve himself and his way to teach football.
“I feel very proud to have been one of his players. He was a fantastic football teacher for me. I had some fun life moments with him because he is a very ironic person [as almost all Tuscan people are] … but I keep those moments for myself.”
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Tognozzi continued: “He is highly demanding because he believes in what he does and the way he teaches in a work methodology and he doesn’t leave nothing to chance. This makes him a special person. He can be liked or not but in the football world where not always everything is so genuine, his passion and his determination is authentic.
“Football is his passion and Sarri is involved at 100 per cent in every little detail. He started from the amateurs up to the professionals, a long journey to arrive at the top. I think it may be a greatest satisfaction. At the same time, many experts should do mea culpa for their fast and superficial evaluations.
“Out of the field Mr. Sarri is a normal and simple person with whom you can talk about everything: from literature to story, from politics to music.”
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