Maurizio Sarri got the proverbial monkey off his back as he lifted the Europa League trophy high into the Baku sky (while being poked by one of Rüdiger’s crutches). Here was his first major trophy, at age 60, completely with celebratory cigar snuck onto the pitch. His only other competition win, the Serie D Cup in Italy with Sansovino in 2003, was sixteen years ago.
He started from the bottom, now he was here. He had arrived.
How long will he stay? No one knows.
“This is the time to celebrate. From tomorrow, as with all clubs, we’ll sit down and see what the club wants me to improve and what I want the club to improve. There are still two years on the contract, so as with every club, we have to sit down and evaluate everything. Over the last 20 days people have said I was certainly going to Roma, Milan and Juventus, so as long as I read them in the papers, it makes no difference.”
One of the many congratulations Sarri received after the game was from Napoli, including Aurelio De Laurentiis, who had revealed before the game that he would be rooting for Chelsea.
Sarri, a native Neapolitan, has cemented his local legend status with the win. He responded in kind by dedicating the win, in part, to the Napoli fans, for whom he couldn’t deliver a title despite a club-record season.
“I dedicate this firstly to the Napoli fans, because this is the satisfaction I was unable to give them last year. I also dedicate it to those lads in the Chelsea squad who couldn’t play tonight because of injuries. I think it’s only right for all of us to have a special thought for them.”
While it may sound like it, he didn’t mean that as disrespect to Chelsea fans, though mentioning them (especially those who made the arduous trek to Baku) would’ve been a welcome gesture (especially alongside this excellent win) in trying to repair a broken relationship (especially if he is to continue).
After the victory he just wanted to dedicate it to people who could not enjoy this success directly tonight - his former Napoli fans and injured players in the squad. He definitely did not want to disrespect Chelsea fans.— Paolo Menicucci (@UEFAcomPaoloM) May 29, 2019
Then again, Sarri may not have to worry too much about Chelsea fans anymore soon. And as much as Napoli fans may adore him, they might not be so overwhelmingly positive if he does take the job at Juventus, a bitter rival, as most are expecting, especially in Italy.
In fact, some Napoli fans have already put up a banner outside his home in Tuscany pleading with him not to go to Juve.
Napoli fans have put up a banner outside Maurizio Sarri’s home in Tuscany (a fair trip), warning the Chelsea boss not to betray them by joining Juventus.— Mark Worrall (@gate17marco) May 29, 2019
The banner reads...
“Boss, don’t betray your people. Naples loves you.”
Can't imagine Chelsea fans doing the same. pic.twitter.com/Rn8m2G1TED
But their “Comandante” has acknowledged that life in professional football isn’t so black and white. Sometimes, a career leads you down a “different path”.
“I am pleased that Napoli congratulated me, I had no doubts it would happen. The Neapolitans know how much love I have for them and that last year I went abroad to avoid going straight to another Italian club.
“They will always have my love and respect. The profession means at times we might have to take different paths, but that will never change my history or my respect for them.”
All that said, Sarri remains the Chelsea head coach for now, and as far as his contract is concerned, for the next two years. He’s won over a few more supporters, undoubtedly, last night, and he’s certainly achieved the minimum requirements for his first year on the job. The players all seem to like or love him just fine.
If he stays, we’ve got something to build on.
“I think after tonight our season goes from good to extraordinary. It was not easy to arrive and settle quickly in such a difficult league. I had some problems, but from February onwards I saw something change in the rapport with the team. Maybe I changed too, but I am starting to feel like this team is mine”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football Italia