In a dim auditorium in Baku & # 39; s Olympic Stadium, Maurizio Sarri spent the final moments of his press conference talking about a newly found bond with his players.
& # 39; At the start of the season it was very difficult to understand my players, & # 39; Sarri admitted.
& # 39; To understand the mentality. But after a very difficult month in January they started to change, I think. Or probably I have changed.
& # 39; But at the moment I love them because I have 20-22 fantastic men. So now I am really happy with them. And of course I have to think about it for the future. And I have to remember that I love English football. & # 39;
Maurizio Sarri shows the excitement of his Chelsea tenure in Baku after a rush of training
The boss of Blues had told the media about a new band with his players, but that soon started to sound hollow
The context of this reflection was a question from an Italian journalist, who invited Sarri to discuss links to Juventus. The Italian champions have reportedly probed Sarri and want him to replace Massimiliano Allegri. And here was Sarri, after a season dominated by friction, suggesting that his affection for the team could see him reject Juventus.
A little later than an hour later, and such words sounded hollow. There were pantomime scenes from Gonzalo Higuain and David Luiz's quarrel, followed by Sarri's dumping a baseball cap on the grass. The club claimed that Sarri was angry because the media was allowed to watch the training, but anyway, it once again emphasized its fleeting nature.
This Europa League run was not always easy for Sarri. His most vulnerable moment came in Malmö, when club chairman Bruce Buck placed his pre-match press conference. On the night of the Europa League knockout, Buck hit the ground for a sharper picture of the warm-up.
Amid gloomy shape and undock dressing room, few supported Sarri to see the season. Indeed, if his side had more completely lost the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City, he would certainly have been shot. Several senior players believed that his days were numbered.
Sarri survived a turbulent campaign and led Chelsea to third place in the competition
Now, after a third placed Premier League final and a possible triumph of the Europa League, Sarri has to reflect with pride. Certainly, he should not be the manager who feels the tension in this final – Unai Emery is the man who needs a win to secure Champions League football. But Sarri, sometimes undervalued both by the boardroom and on the terraces, is apparently seduced by Juventus.
It is worth remembering how long Chelsea was to catch him last summer. The club's due diligence revealed a disturbing history of homophobic and sexist comments. Chelsea paid considerable compensation to Napoli, despite the fact that the Italian club did not release him until July.
It is possible that Sarri owes the club a bit of loyalty, but this is a smart man with a background in the murderous banking world. He knows that Chelsea can be a brutal environment for managers. He also knows the dangers of a possible transfer ban and the impending exit of Eden Hazard, who will play his last game in a Chelsea shirt on Wednesday.
Sarri must win a significant trophy for the first time. He must also tackle his team's poor record against the top six Premier League teams away from Stamford Bridge. They lost at Liverpool, City, Arsenal and Tottenham and went to Manchester United. City saw Chelsea in the final of the Carabao Cup. In those six games, Chelsea gave 14 goals and scored two.
His authority among the team has shrunk, but an uneasy truce now rules at the club
With each side, the authority of the manager seeped away. There were long individual meetings after the reverse Tottenham. After the 4-0 loss in Bournemouth, a lock-in took 50 minutes and Sarri begged his players for tips on what he could do to improve.
He was so annoyed by the slow start on his part until the second half that he joked in a press conference that he had to stop giving half-time team discussions. Even Cesar Azpilicueta, the most loyal lieutenant, has exchanged dressing rooms in the dressing room with the Italian at times of high pressure.
His behavior has upset club staff – in particular criticism of a post-season trip to the United States to raise funds for anti-Semitism. His oddities are weird, such as the moment when this well-paid manager refused to step onto the field for extra time against Eintracht Frankfurt because of his superstition about entering the playing field.
Yet Sarri has changed how he speaks to players. The players on their part also bent.
Only Tuesday night Luiz said: & # 39; You can lose a few ways, but to win you have to sacrifice yourself, give more, do everything for this club. That is what we did. Many players understood and changed the situation. Only intelligent people can adapt. If you are not intelligent, you will never change. & # 39;
Sarri might get a card with Juventus lurking and his future uncertain in the long term
However, it is an uncomfortable truce. The Juventus ticket still offers a way out for both parties, while Frank Lampard can feed the young Chelsea players in the event of a transfer ban.
Chelsea can be an exhausting club to manage. Martin Keown has suggested that Sarri stress to & # 39; an early grave & # 39; could bring.
This is a club that is at war forever – whether it's star-striker Diego Costa, physics Eva Carneiro or former manager Antonio Conte.
The highly charged environment, they believe, ensures success and it can be justified again in Baku. It remains to be seen whether Sarri will be taken out for fear in the long term.
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