The 59-year-old Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri is an unusual football figure.
The Italian tactician spent the first decade of his managerial career splitting time between coaching and working in the banking sector and it wasn’t until his sixth job in football that he decided to commit his full-time to management.
From amateur sides and the world’s oldest bank still in operation – the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena – Maurizio Sarri has come the long way to become the head coach of Serie A giants Napoli.
Napoli & Sarri – A Match made in Heaven
With spells at the likes of Avellino, Verona, Perugia and Empoli under his belt, Maurizio Sarri commenced his Napoli stint in 2015, quickly realizing that partnership with one of Italy’s most difficult clubs to work at might just be the perfect fit for his character, temperament and nature.
“The relationship between the San Paolo and the team is something extraordinary, with me particularly. The Neapolitans fanbase has no equal, you go on the pitch and you receive something that is much more than emotional. I feel a great debt, and the only way I know to repay it is to give my best.”, Sarri told Montecatini Terme after receiving the Premio Maesterelli award on Monday.
As a man born in Naples, Sarri knows far too well what football means for the residents of this south Italy’s city which lives its dreams and fears through San Paulo Stadium.
Temperamental southerners have a point to prove against the more illustrious and wealthier peers from the north and with Sarri taking over the charge it finally seemed as if their frustrations over the lack of domestic silverware that last almost 30 years will meet their end.
Attacking Football an Imperative
Napoli currently sit second in Serie A standings, trailing the reigning champions Juventus by two points. Partenopei led the way throughout the season, but the beginning of March brought consecutive disappointments in 4-2 home defeat by AS Roma and a goalless stalemate at Inter Milan that ultimately allowed Juventus to climb back to the top of the table.
“We played a great game against Inter at San Siro. We had it under control and the fact we didn’t win left a bitter taste. That means we’re doing well, we, the fans and the media are getting used to extraordinary achievements.”, he added.
The extraordinary achievements may still be out of Napoli’s reach but it’s the extraordinary manner the club goes about is what fascinates footballing Europe this season. Maurizio Sarri’s side lost only two Serie A matches in 2017/18 campaign – the same number as Juventus – scoring 63 and conceding only 19 goals in the process.
Sarri’s style is unique. His principles unwavering. The hot-tempered Italian will not tolerate anything other than entertaining, eye-catching football all of the players at his disposal must accept as their true nature of doing things.
In my opinion, what is a thing that separates Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli from other Serie A teams, is collective awareness of the space, teammates and opponents, and using it to play without the ball to create the best conditions for progressive ball circulation. #NapoliGenoa #Sarri pic.twitter.com/HrKZioncCd
— Mindfootballness (@slawekmorawski) March 19, 2018
Napoli’s style of play is being suitably called the Sarri-ball and is widely regarded as the most attractive brand of football across Italy and Europe as well. The free-flowing, attack-oriented mindset is built around the short passing patterns inside a triangular formation which stretches the backline out of the natural frame to allow attacking players to run into spaces and collect balls.
Partenopei would not budge in front pressure or abandon their style of moving the ball forward. With a seemingly impenetrable obstacle ahead of them, Napoli players would still hold on the possession and recycle the patterns as much as it takes to find a crack and launch a quick-paced burst forward.
With his fluent 4-3-3 quickly transforming into a 4-5-1 with Insigne and Callejon dropping back to collect the ball, Maurizio Sarri’s tactics are based on aggressive pressure at the centre of the park. The tireless combinations and passing of the ball are the result of the tiring training process which often leaves players exhausted at Napoli’s Castel Volturno training facility.
Napoli working on quick 1 touch counter attacking to goal after winning ball back. Unopposed but done at maximum speed. pic.twitter.com/Hgyk0133JJ
— SoccerPulse (@SoccerPulseApp) March 14, 2018
What Napoli have on their bench is an innovator who uses drones to document his training sessions and track the players’ movement but also a temperamental man who would often get into trouble for speaking his mind.
The final minutes of Napoli’s Coppa Italia match against Inter Milan back in 2016 found Maurizio Sarri involved in a heated argument with Roberto Mancini, which resulted in Partenopei boss being called a homophobe and ultimately fined and banned.
This month’s goalless draw against Inter Milan – once again – saw Sarri make insulting comments towards a female journalist Titti Improta who asked the Napoli coach to comment on the difficulty to catch Juventus after falling behind the reigning champions.
“You’re a woman, you’re beautiful, for those two reasons I won’t tell you to go f*** yourself.”, Sarri commented angrily.
Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri caused controversy after saying “you’re a woman, you’re pretty, so I won’t tell you to f*** off” when asked by a female reporter if his side had surrendered the Serie A title on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/0RE8HF1oOD
— Goal (@goal) March 12, 2018
Sarri later apologized to the journalist in question for his sexist comments and insult but these frequent bursts of hot temper and untamed character remain a reminder of the true, notorious Naples nature. If there’s a club that would understand and tolerate such a behaviour and temper than that definitely is Napoli, who are ready to reward their head coach with a new contract.
Maurizio Sarri will reportedly meet with Napoli officials during the next 48 hours to discuss the new deal with Corriere dello Sport reporting that controversial Aurelio De Laurentiis is keen to wrap things up before he leaves over to the United States later this week.
Reportedly a target for Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri called speculation that he could leave ‘a false problem’ and is ready to pledge his long-term future to his hometown club as he looks to cash in on the 24/13 betting odds of leading Napoli to their first Scudetto trophy since 1990.
So, can he?
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