Italy beckons for homesick Sarri

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri has admitted he would welcome a return to Italy after a "heavy year" at Chelsea, as Juventus edge closer to luring him back to the Serie A.

The Italian champions have met the former Napoli manager and his agent and are expected to buy out the remainder on Sarri's £5 million (S$8.7 million)-a-season contract to secure him as the successor to Massimiliano Allegri.

Despite Sarri's position having been tenuous earlier this year, Chelsea had no great desire to sack their head coach this summer after seeing him secure a third-place finish in the Premier League and win the Europa League in his tumultuous first campaign outside Italy.

Yet Sarri had made clear in a meeting with the club director Marina Granovskaia 48 hours after the triumph in Baku, that his preference would be a return home, citing a desire to be closer to his family as one of his motivations.

"For us Italians, the call of home is strong," said Sarri in an interview with the Italian edition of Vanity Fair. "I feel that something is missing. It has been a heavy year.

" I begin to feel the weight of distant friends and elderly parents I rarely see.

"But at my age, I only make professional choices.

"I won't be able to work for 20 years. It's hard work, the bench.

"When I return home to Tuscany I feel like a stranger. I have slept 30 nights there in the last few years."

The 60-year-old, who is in Italy finalising his move to Juve, would have no qualms about upsetting Napoli's fan base by taking up the reins in Turin.

"The Neapolitans know the love I feel for them," he said. "I chose to move abroad last year and not to go on an Italian team.

"The relationship will not change. Loyalty is giving 110 per cent when you are there.

"What does it mean to be faithful? And if one day the company sends you away? What are you to do - stay true to a wife you divorced from?"

His relationship with a vocal section of the Chelsea support fractured apparently beyond repair this year, with fans unimpressed by his team's style of play.

The club have since shortlisted the likes of Allegri, Laurent Blanc, Nuno Espirito Santo, Javi Gracia, Frank Lampard and Steve Holland as Sarri's successor.

Their choice will be influenced by whether the next stage of the club's development will be undertaken under a two-window transfer embargo.

Regardless of that ban, they are resigned to losing Eden Hazard, with further talks taking place with Real Madrid aimed at generating more than £100 million from the Belgian playmaker's sale.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline 'Italy beckons for homesick Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe