When Chelsea were first linked to Maurizio Sarri towards the end of last season, it was in the midst of an ugly and painful war between then-coach Antonio Conte and the Chelsea board. The issue, or at least one the issues — which Conte clung to, press conference after press conference, like a dog holds onto a bone — was the manager’s unhappiness with Chelsea’s transfer activity.
So it came as a welcome relief when Sarri was quoted at Napoli as saying that he doesn’t like to look to the transfer market to cure whatever ails his teams.
“I like to coach the lads I have available. I don’t think about the transfer market. I hear from [Napoli sporting director Cristiano] Giuntoli every three days, and it doesn’t interest me. I like to coach the lads I have available. Giuntoli has always done well, and he will continue to do so.”
-Maurizio Sarri; July 2015
He made similar statements in the early days of his time at Chelsea as well, including in his introductory press conference.
“I see myself as more of a field manager, a pitch manager rather than a general manager. I think that I am one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don’t want to talk about the transfer market and I’m not that interested in it. I think that our task as managers is growing the players we have.”
-Maurizio Sarri; July 2018
Of course, that’s only partially true.
Sarri reportedly tried to bring five Napoli players with him when he made the move to the Premier League. In the end, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis negotiated that down to just one player, the invaluable Jorginho (who was leaving anyway for Manchester City before Chelsea swooped in) ... though recently full back Elseid Hysaj confirmed that he would’ve joined as well were it not for the Napoli supremo and Gonzalo Higuain, once of Napoli and Juventus and now of AC Milan, confirmed that Sarri pushed for his signing before the Chelsea board decided against it.
So Sarri is like every other manager. He appreciates what a good transfer can do for his team. He might be bored by the lottery of the transfer market, but he also just might have a few favorite numbers to play when the jackpot hits a billion. You never know what might hit.
It should be noted that even though Chelsea are continuing to operate without an official Director of Football — it’s part of the Hand of the Emperor, Marina Granovskaia’s purview, as it has been since Michael Emenalo’s resignation a year ago — it continues to NOT be the head coach’s job to scout and sign players. That was true under Conte, just as it’s true now, and was true before and at times even during the latter Mourinho Era as well. The difference, at least so far, seems to be that Sarri truly will not make a fuss about it.
In Friday’s pre-Palace press conference, the Chelsea head coach once again made the point that the transfer window doesn’t preoccupy him, giving a familiar, disinterested answer.
“I didn’t ask anything about it to my club at the moment because at the moment I think we can stay with these players and be competitive. Maybe not for the top but we have to try to arrive close to the top.
“I have to think I only have to help these players to improve. It is too easy to go into the market for every problem. I think we need to improve and we need to improve with these players because they can improve.
“I have to think to improve my players. It is my work, I think. The market, there is the club. I can say to the club my opinion about what I think I need but my job is to try to improve my players.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: The Independent
(Ed.note: if you’re counting, that’s SIX instances of “improve” in just five sentences. Sensing a theme here. In fairness, Conte used to say things like that, too, but somewhere during that second and final season, the narrative took a hard left turn. The relationship between him and upper management took an even stronger turn for the worse in the meantime as well, and it’s likely that those two things we related in some way.)
Given the inconsistent form of our two centre-forwards, Sarri’s statement might come as a bit of a surprise. It was just last January that we picked up Olivier Giroud, after all.
And then there’s the rumor mill’s insistence that Chelsea are hunting for a young, potentially elite centre-back, like Juve’s Daniele Rugani or Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Given the uncertainty of Gary Cahill’s status, that’s not a surprise. Business in January’s never easy, but Chelsea have a decent history of solid signings in the winter transfer window over the past decade (Giroud, Barkley, Emerson, Matić (second time), Cahill, David Luiz (first time), etc) and if a similiar opportunity presents itself, we could certainly pounce.
But it does come as a relief that our manager believes that his current team can still improve, and that’s he’s not window-shopping and torturing himself over visions of what might be. We’ve had enough of that to last us a while.