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No interference & bags of money: Why Sarri and Chelsea perfect for eachother

COMMENT: Oh Pep, be careful what you wish for... because he's here. In England. And already messing with Manchester City's plans.

There was nothing underhand about Chelsea's deal for Jorginho yesterday. No bullying from Napoli's end (that claim made zero sense). No massive demands from Joao Santos, Jorginho's agent, to scare City off. No. Nothing.

The reason Jorginho chose Chelsea was standing opposite as the club photographer snapped him in a Blues training kit. The old son in the black - so typically black - blazer. The coach's coach. The man even Pep Guardiola looks up to: Maurizio Sarri.

"If he comes to England it will be a pleasure," so said Guardiola of Sarri last season. For Pep, despite all the plaudits for his entertainers at City, they were only the warm-up act for Sarri's Napoli last season.

"During Cagliari-Napoli Guardiola sent me a text message, talking about the Azzurri," revealed Arrigo Sacchi, the former AC Milan and Italy coach, last season. "He wrote: 'but how well do they play? Nobody does it this way in Europe'."

But with that admiration there will also be competition. As Jorginho has proven. The players Guardiola likes. The type he can see fitting into his system. Well, unlike anyother manager in the Premier League, Sarri will be feeling the same. And in contrast to his past clubs, at Chelsea, he will finally have the resources to make those wished-for transfers happen.

So strike one for the old man. Jorginho chose a rebuilding job and a Europa League campaign over working with Guardiola at the champions. And for one reason: Mr 33.

33? That's how many different tactical plans Sarri drew up for his players at non-league Sansovino - without the ball. Sarri would later refute the 'Mr 33' tag, though admitted "it was over 30"!

And that's where he'll start. With his back four. Always a back four. The entertainment. The 'Sarriball'. It will all be built from the foundations of his defensive line. You enjoy defending, Gary Cahill? Well, you should thrive in Sarri's system. "I dream of defensive movements even at night," Raul Albiol, the Napoli defender, once said.

Anyone close to Guardiola say he's a football nut. An obsessive. Well, here's another. And it's why you can take any claims coming from the English media about the 59 year-old with a grain of salt.

Sarri lives for football. Nothing else. And sources. Trusted sources. They insist he won't be changing. Those claims of Sarri needing to give up his cigarettes are as rock solid as the ones about Chelsea ditching him over a month ago because of his set-to with Roberto Mancini. That he was shaking hands with Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea's prime powerbroker, yesterday made clear how accurate those stories were.

But it's good. Good that the finger wagging is out of the way. At least the major wave of it this column expected to tumble down upon Sarri's appointment. There'll still be a trickle. But it'll have the whiff of: been there, done that, move on.

And it'll all flow over Sarri's head. He won't be allowed to smoke at Stamford Bridge. But he also won't obsess about giving up his cigarettes. Just as he won't give up his tracksuit for a club tie. For Sarri, everything comes second to his team and the "show" they turn on for the fans. Granovskaia and Roman Abramovich, the Blues owner, will know this. Turning 60 in January, Sarri won't be for changing. You take him as he is.

And he gave us a little hint of that yesterday. With that dark blazer. Black is his colour. He wears it always on big occasions for good luck. And there he was, snapped putting pen to paper on his Chelsea contract wearing his black sports coat. Don't be surprised if someone inside Chelsea's marketing team spies an opportunity and designs a black polo for Sarri - and fans - to wear on matchday.

Chelsea's not his first job in England. Before dedicating himself to football, Sarri worked in the banking sector and his career took him around Europe - including to England. He won't struggle adapting to the local language, nor settling into London life.

Chelsea, at this stage in their history, is the perfect fit for Sarri. He arrives with Abramovich recognising the squad is in need of renewal. Unlike with Antonio Conte, the Russian has intimated a willingness to dig deep to back his new manager. Jorginho is already through the door, with the Juventus pair Gonzalo Higuain and Daniele Rugani expected to follow. And Abramovich will do it quietly - which is just what Sarri is seeking after his problems with Napoli's ever outspoken president, Aurelio de Laurentiis. Over the last 18 months, if it wasn't Sarri the movie mogul was pulling apart, it was one of his players. At times, the coach was throwing as much energy into tackling De Laurentiis barbs as he was reviewing performances.

But Abramovich is a different owner. And a very different personality. He'll leave Sarri to get on with it. No interference. No pubic slight. The manager will be left to focus on what he does best - to produce thrilling, entertaining football.

And with access to a transfer budget he's never had before, you can bet Jorginho won't be the last time Sarri treads on Guardiola's toes this new season.


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Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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