Ahead of his first meeting later today with a team managed by Jose Mourinho, Maurizio Sarri is quite clear on comparisons between him and one of his predecessors in the Chelsea role. They should not be made.
Their current teams go head to head in the lunchtime kick-off at Stamford Bridge with the Blues seven points ahead of Mourinho’s Red Devils in the Premier League table, but despite that lead, Sarri highlights the difference in silverware won as the big contrast between them.
‘The results speak for him [Mourinho], so at the moment he is better than me for sure. I hope to improve myself in the future but at the moment I have to say that he is better than me.
‘He has won everything everywhere so I need to win if I want to compare myself to him. At the moment it is not possible. We are talking about one of the best coaches in the world and at the moment I am not one of the best.
‘Not only in the past [does Mourinho win things], he will be able to win also in the future, because he is really one of the best, maybe the best, the results are the best. He will be able to win again. The special one is Mourinho.’
Of course the two have worked in the same country at the same time before, when Mourinho was in charge of Inter Milan, but their paths did not cross as Sarri was working in Italy’s lower leagues. He admits back then, a decade ago, he did not envisage them later competing at the same level.
‘My target in that period was to be a professional coach. I did not think in that period that I was able to arrive here, so I think I am lucky.
‘I am lucky because it is very difficult to start in a non-professional team and finish in one of the most important clubs in the world.’
Part of his good fortune, Sarri explains, is to have taken the reins of an Empoli side which at the time had relatively unknown, very young players which he says were also very good. He fielded several 19- to 21-year-olds and won promotion – his career benefitting from being in the right place at the right moment, as he puts it.
‘I have won Serie B and Serie C, like in England the Championship and League One and League Two, but now I need to win at this level,’ he states.
‘Without determination it is impossible to arrive here from a non-professional team. My character is different [from Mourinho] but maybe the level of determination is the same.’