He entered the room in a sharp navy suit, and one of the first questions was about how he would dress on the touchline of Juventus Stadium, a simplistic question that hinted at the deeper meaning of the appointment.
Of course, it wasn’t the start of a fresh semester, but it was a brand new adventure for the 60-year-old. The sun was out in Turin as journalists made their way into the hall named after Juventus legends Gianni and Umberto Agnelli, each waiting to witness Sarri’s official unveiling as the club’s newest Coach.
He entered the room in a sharp navy suit, and one of the first questions was about how he would dress on the touchline of Juventus Stadium. “I’ll have to talk to the club, he replied with a smile. “Obviously, when representing the club away from the field I’ll wear what they tell me, and I’d prefer not to wear a shirt & tie on the pitch, but the important thing is that they don’t send me out there naked at my age…”
It was the perfect response to a question that hinted at the deeper significance of the appointment, Sarri’s gruff exterior standing in stark contrast with Juve’s prim and proper image as the grand Old Lady of Italian football. Almost everything about the new boss is the antithesis of life with the Turin giants, the club steeped in tradition and running with the smooth efficiency expected at any major company while he toils away in a tracksuit, trainers and a cloud of smoke.
In mentioning his two Bianconeri predecessors, the club official brought yet another reminder of just how different Sarri is in his approach, yet he also explained that his system begins with the talent he finds at his disposal.
“You can’t start with a system, we have to identify the two or three players who can make the difference,” the coach told reporters. “You have to talk to the players, listen to them and then see what system we can use. In recent years, I’ve used 4-3-3, but my 4-3-3 at Chelsea was very different to the one at Napoli. We had to utilise Eden Hazard’s characteristics, because he could change the game, but his presence caused issues defensively so we had to work on hiding that weakness.”
Asked about records he’d like to break, the Tuscan discussed wanting to help Cristiano Ronaldo break the single-season scoring record, a mark set by Gonzalo Higuain when he played under Sarri at Napoli. “I’d like to do that again,” he smiled, but was also quick to acknowledge that the need to secure silverware as a team is paramount.
“I arrive surrounded by sceptics, but then I always have been,” Sarri said. “I had the same at Empoli, Napoli and Chelsea. I arrive at Juventus from Chelsea and the step might spark less scepticism, but in football, I know only one way of removing scepticism from the minds of people: win and do so convincingly. So all I can do is put on a show.”
Yet it is obvious that he will look to combine both those things, the importance of his free-flowing, easy-on-the-eye style of play as important to him as the cigarette he so desperately needed. “I think the objective of enjoying yourself on the field is not antithetical to winning”, Sarri continued. “If a team entertains the crowd and enjoys its football, that can be further fuel towards victory.
“There have been coaches who won with completely different and contrasting philosophies of football and there is no one way to win, so a Coach should stay true to himself and his vision, taking into account the possibility of failure.”