As tempting as joining perennial runaway Italian champions Juventus sounds, is it really worth giving up a project you’ve put heart and soul into for an entire year?
That’s what Maurizio Sarri is probably weighing up – or rather, weighed up – in his mind ahead of a move back to his native Italy, as his Chelsea career looks set to come to a premature end.
How it got to this point is up for discussion – but this squad would be going places because of the success Sarri has brought with an against-the-odds third-place finish and an emphatic Europa League triumph.
That’s despite losing the talismanic qualities of Eden Hazard and the transfer ban that will hold the club back for a year on the personnel front – and that’s because there is one constant that Sarri has not managed to overcome, even during the team’s best spells – the fans.
Like anyone in the sport, Sarri will have his fans and critics. But given what he has achieved, and that his chief critics are arguably the Chelsea supporters, moving back to Italy for an easier life on all fronts seems like a no-brainer for the 60-year-old.
Keeping the fans happy is possibly the most calculable method of measuring a manager’s success. But seeing as Sarri looked to be heading out the door not long after (or even during) a major cup final, it was as if the on-pitch success wasn’t translating to those in the stands.
Here’s a theory: maybe he’s purely a guy who works well under pressure. Perhaps that is how he managed to steer Chelsea from the brink of the ignominy of losing at Cardiff to sealing a Champions League place with a game to spare.
As far as the job at hand is concerned – Sarri’s your man. But that’s not to say he’ll enjoy the ongoing speculation that comes with it. Fans tweeted #SarriOut all season – even after his first game in the Community Shield. Is it any surprise he wants out?
The tragedy is a manager who can exceed expectations in the way Sarri did last season would surely relish the added challenge of doing the same next year – with the transfer restrictions in place.
Chelsea look set to lose out on a promising future under the outgoing boss as a result of the pressure that parts of the fanbase have put the Italian under.
And for those who don’t buy that – we’ve seen fan power dictate the futures of managers plenty of times before. Look at how Rafael Benitez was taken in by Newcastle United as he took them into the Championship. Then look at how Arsene Wenger was hounded out at Arsenal. It seems ridiculous to suggest, but it almost proves the fans matter more than the results.
Fans have more power than we realise – Juventus fans expecting Sarri’s arrival have already expressed their dismay before he’s even got to Turin. That’s right – #SarriOut before #SarriIn. Truly bonkers.
So for all the Italian’s footballing achievements in the past year, the environment at Chelsea throughout the season has deemed the results irrelevant. His managerial prowess is not in question, but his insufficient approval rating with the fans has led him to seek surroundings in which he feels most comfortable – by any means necessary.