After arriving in Turin yesterday, Maurizio Sarri had his first press conference with the assembled media today as the new Juventus manager. Presented to the world by Director Fabio Paratici, Sarri did not appear overwhelmed by the stage or the occasion.
Before Sarri spoke, Paratici stressed that the new manager was indeed the club’s first choice, and not the fallback option after others mentioned by the media such aas Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pocchetino declined the offer.
“We had clear ideas from the start, but you have to show respect for a Coach under contract and two big clubs. I thank Chelsea for their disposal, as Marina Granovskaia confirmed herself one of the best directors out there.
“We made a choice, thinking the propulsion and alchemy created between club, Coach, players and fans could start to weaken a little. Our choice to change Allegri was not down to results or style of football. Style of football was not central to the reasoning for changing.
“We chose Maurizio because we felt he was the best Coach for Juventus right now, just as Allegri was five years ago and Conte three years before that.
“These are all different Coaches with different characteristics. Sarri showed he can win in the Premier League and internationally, so he’s the right man for the job. He was absolutely the first choice. I don’t know what we said to convince him, maybe he just felt we really wanted him.”
Here are the pick of Sarri’s comments, starting with his Neapolitan background -
“You need clear ideas on your journey. I supported Napoli because I was born in Naples and I got the idea we could be competitive at a national level, so I gave my all.
”In the last few months at Napoli, I had doubts between my affection for the club and fans, and my professional feeling the journey there had concluded.
”During my doubts, Carlo Ancelotti was introduced and that was probably my fault, as it was my doubt. I received offers, but preferred to go abroad, as I did not want to move directly to another Italian club.
”The Premier League was a great experience, but in the latter half, I felt professional and personal needs to return to Italy.”
On returning to Italy with Juventus, and the challenge ahead -
“Juventus gave me that opportunity and it’s the crowning moment of a career that for 80 per cent of it was extremely tough. I feel that I have respected everyone and I gave my all.
“When Juventus contacted me, the sensation was strong. I’ve never seen a club so determined to get a Coach in my 30 years here and that is what convinced me.
“I think we have a long path ahead of us. I was talking to the President about structures and organisation. Going around English stadiums, you realise how inadequate our arenas are. There needs to be a cultural shift, as you turn behind you on the bench and are surrounded by children.
”I think in terms of club organisation and tactically on the field, we still have the upper hand compared to England.
”I am excited by Serie A this season, because there is the return of Antonio Conte, Marco Giampaolo at Milan, the arrival of an exciting talent like Paulo Fonseca at Roma and at Sassuolo a man I admire a great deal, Roberto De Zerbi. I see a sparkling situation.”
On the Champions League, the primary reason Juve chose to move on from Massimiliano Allegri -
“I expect to get up in the morning and study how to win games. If a club tries to drill the idea that victory is owed to them, then there’s a mistake. You have to go out to win.
”As for the Champions League, Juventus will go there to win, but also aware there are eight or nine other teams who are in the same situation. I feel there is more responsibility to win in Italy. In Europe, there is the dream, the passion to win something that has an extraordinary difficult coefficient.”
On formations and tactics at the Bianconeri -
“You can’t start with a system and send players away or bring them in. We have to identify the two or three players who can make the difference. The third step is to talk to the players, listen to them and then see what system we can use.
”In recent years, I’ve had 4-3-3, but the 4-3-3 at Chelsea was very different to the one at Napoli. We had to accompany Eden Hazard’s characteristics, as he could change the game, but also his presence caused issues in defending that we had to work on.
”I played 4-3-1-2 for a lifetime before the 4-3-3, so we’ll see.”
On his choice to join Juve despite them being Napoli’s fierce rivals -
“I had three years at Napoli, I made a choice out of respect to them to go abroad. With the need to come to Italy, I received an offer from Juventus and that’s it.
”In my life, I have respected everyone and given 110 per cent to every jersey I worked with. I’ll do the same with these colours, I cannot do more than 110 per cent.
”My choices were very logical, there’s no need to write a novel around it.
“Clubs are at the end of the day made up of people. I liked the unity I saw in the first approach from Juventus, as that is important for me. At the end of the day, you work for a club and what allows you to give another one per cent is the emotional bond with the people.
”I needed only a couple of meetings with them to realise how determined, strong and with a solid mentality they were. I like that.”
On managing the phenomenon that is Cristiano Ronaldo -
“I’ve trained great players over the years, but with Ronaldo I move on to the next level, a player who is at the top of the world.
”This is a lad with every record in world football and I’d like to help him set another, knowing I contributed to it.
“I trained a player with the all-time Serie A record for goals in a single season (Gonzalo Higuain at Napoli). I’d like to make that two. It’d be an enormous satisfaction.
“I think when a player has the qualities of Dybala or Cristiano, he can play in any role. What changes is the interpretation of the role and the squad must adapt to those characteristics, as centre-forward is a key role.”
On his teams playing with style, another oft-repeated criticism of Allegri -
“I think the objective of enjoying yourself on the field is not antithetical to winning. If a team entertains the crowd and enjoys its football, that can be further fuel towards victory.
”It’s not as if a team that enjoys itself is frivolous. I remember after the first 2-3 Empoli games in Serie A, I was asked if we thought we could secure safety playing this style of football rather than defend and counter? We saved ourselves with six rounds to spare.
”There have been Coaches who won with completely different and contrasting philosophies of football. There is no one way to win. Therefore a Coach should stay true to himself and his vision, taking into account the possibility of failure.”
On how he’s changed his training methods at different clubs -
“What changes are the characteristics of the players. Napoli had team players, who were totally at the disposal of the team and moved the ball at a decisively quicker pace.
”Chelsea are made up of probably technically superior players, but with different individual characteristics.
”They have wingers who want the ball at their feet and like to go one-on-one. It leads to a less fluid style of football, because Napoli had 11 who could play one-touch football, Chelsea had seven or eight who could do that and the others were individuals who could make the difference going by themselves.
”We were fairly unbeatable in the last two-three months. You’d be insane to think you could change the characteristics of the players at your disposal. I’d be in the amateur leagues at that point.
”You are dealing with players at this level who are already champions. The philosophy of football remains largely the same, but you must have the mental elasticity to adapt to the players and figure out how to win games.”
On some key players he thinks will figure in his teams -
“The players who can really change everything are in attack. It’s up to us to organise the players around the field, but in the final third there are players with the talent to make the difference.
”Ronaldo is talented, so is Dybala, Douglas Costa is a potential top player who hasn’t really shown what he can do consistently. These are great talents and we must see how we can build around them, what they can give in defending.
”The players who make the difference are the most talented, so those are the ones you build around.
”I haven’t named Higuain, Mandzukic, I don’t have the entire squad list at my disposal. I was just making some examples, not ruling anyone out.
”Pipa is a lad I love a great deal and it depends on him if he remains. I haven’t spoken to Gonzalo since the post-Europa League Final party. I had to get my ideas sorted on Juve and this club.
”He is a Juventus player, so when he returns from vacation, we’ll have the opportunity to talk.
”Gonzalo has the characteristics that allow him to play with anyone. I said it depends on Gonzalo because I get the feeling he didn’t enjoy the post-Juventus experience and was a little shaken after that season, these things happen. If he can get a strong reaction, he can play another 3-4 years at a high level.
“Bernardeschi? Everyone knows I like this lad, ever since Fiorentina-Napoli. He is well-organised, has talent, but lacks a little bit of consistency from game to game. I think this is the moment of his career where he needs to play consistently in one single role.”
On Juve’s transfer activity -
“There are directors here who have been following these players for years, so I will listen to their opinions too.
”Maybe not Higuain, who I know pretty well, but I will first and foremost listen and adapt to what the club suggests. It would be unfair for me to impose my ideas on people who know these players more than me.
”Once I get a clearer idea of what our key system will be, then we’ll talk about transfers. I don’t like to name names to a club, but I am more focused on characteristics and the kind of players I’d like to have. Paratici knows far more players than me, so we’re in good hands.”
On following the giant footsteps of Allegri’s achievements in Turin -
“Allegri leaves a lot to live up to. We know full well that it’s not easy to win all that he did over the last five years. His results were extraordinary.
”I’d like to see the same capability that Max gave the team to hold out under pressure for 30 minutes and still win. It’s something I rarely managed, perhaps that is because of my approach. If you get the team accustomed to keeping the ball and they don’t have it for a while, they can struggle and start to panic.
”Allegri’s teams on the other hand seemed to be struggling, but then you always had the thought in your mind that they could win it anyway.
“At times, I chat with Allegri via common friends, but so far I haven’t heard from him. I hope to do so during the summer. We tend to joke around, though, we don’t usually discuss anything serious.”
On what he’s looking to implement at Juventus -
“It’s not about working on one area. Clearly, my style of football is different. I have to figure out how much I can bring of my ideas and be productive.
”I have to gain more points, not fewer, while using my philosophy. It’s about the balance of how much is down to the tactics and how much we leave in the hands of the players.
”If you ask my opinion, I’d like to see Pjanic touch the ball 150 times per game. However, it’s about balancing everything and the various characteristics.
”I tend to give a lot more freedom to my teams from the final third, as that is where the players can improvise a little more.
”Every team is like a son, you can’t all have the same, nor should you want to. They all have their characteristics.”
On the very important question about wearing the suit and tie -
“I’ll talk to the club. Obviously, when representing the club, I will wear their uniform. The important thing at my age is that they don’t send me out there naked...”
PS - Right at the end of the presser Paratici was asked about the rumours around Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot -
“Pogba is a Manchester United player, he was with us for many years, he grew up here and we love him, but he is a Manchester United player.
”There are many clubs who want Rabiot. We are in the running, not just for him, but the other targets in our minds. We’ll discuss it with Maurizio and try to find the right targets together for the team we want to see.”