Maurizio Sarri was introduced to the media for the first time since becoming Chelsea head coach, at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours before he and the squad fly to the other side of the world to continue the pre-season preparations and play the first game.
Sarri introduced himself in English. ‘I am really pleased to be here in London, in England,’ he said, ‘and it is a pleasure to be in the Premier League, at the moment the best championship in the world. I am very happy to be here at Chelsea.’
In a few weeks’ time he hopes to conduct the whole conference in English, but for the rest of today the Italian reverted to his native tongue.
‘For me this is a difficult challenge but a fascinating one. I know it will be very difficult, here we have the strongest coaches and players in world, so I know it will be an extremely difficult challenge,’ he said.
‘The Premier League is different from Serie A because it is stronger. Serie A is tactically difficult but here there are stronger players. However I do not want to upset anything, I need to have fun in order to do well and in the last couple of years something has changed in the Premier League as well, it is not typically English in terms of playing and this has given me confidence.’
Sarri was asked by the reporters about players rumoured to be possible transfers away from the club and how determined he is to keep them. He said rather than speaking to any such player over the phone, he would rather talk to them face-to-face to properly understand what is best for everyone, and he would also like a player to train with him for four or five days to understand what the situation is.
‘Clearly we would always like to keep all the strongest players, this what any manager wants to do and any club wants but we will have to see how the transfer market will be over the next few days, but I feel much more a pitch manager than a general manager, I think I am one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don’t want to talk about it and I am not that interested in it. I think our task as managers is growing the players we have.’
— Maurizio Sarri
The new boss was asked how much he is looking forward to working with Eden Hazard, someone else who speaks about having fun on the pitch, and whether he can have the sort of success with Hazard he has had with the Belgian’s compatriot, Dries Mertens, who was a key part of his Napoli team, especially when Sarri altered the player's position to be more a central striker.
‘Hazard is a very high-level player and one of the top two or three European players, and obviously I would like to have fun during the week with him, and also on matchdays as this will mean good results and we will be competitive at the end of the season. I hope I will manage to improve him. This is difficult given he has reached a very high level.’
Sarri was also asked to clarify accusations of having used sexist or homophobic language in the past.
‘People make mistakes,’ he replied, ‘and one of these mistakes was when I was angry. These were mistakes for sure but those who know me well cannot define me this way. I think I am a very open person and don’t have these kind of problems, and I hope I will be able to show this when I am working and living here. When someone makes mistake they must apologise, but more than apologise, I hope you will have the chance to know me better and will be able to forget this very quickly.’