Sarri hits back at Napoli chief: He misses me

Sarri hits back at Napoli chief: He misses me

LONDON — Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri insisted that his time in charge of Napoli was a success after chairman Aurelio de Laurentiis criticised him for not winning a trophy in his three seasons at San Paolo.

In an interview with L’Equipe, De Laurentiis said he had been left with mixed feelings about Sarri’s stint in Naples because of “the pleasure of having played well but also the bitterness of not having won anything” under his guidance.

Sarri finished in Serie A’s top three in each of his three seasons at Napoli, implementing a thrilling style of football that earned admirers across the football world, including Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

In the 2017-18 campaign, his team finished second to Juventus with 91 points, the most any team had amassed without winning a Serie A title.

Asked if he felt De Laurentiis’ criticism is fair, Sarri said with a smile: “I don’t know. He is talking about me because he is missing me.

“We didn’t win in Naples, but we had the record number of points for the club, and the second and third best. We qualified three times for the Champions League, and it was unusual for Naples. So I think we did very well. Nobody won in Italy except Juventus in the last seven years.”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri barks instructions during a match. Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

Relations between De Laurentiis and Sarri soured during the prolonged negotiations that eventually brought the latter to Chelsea, with the Napoli chairman demanding compensation from the Blues to release the coach despite having already appointed Carlo Ancelotti as his successor.

Chelsea eventually broke the impasse by agreeing to pay around £50 million to sign Italy international Jorginho, but De Laurentiis reportedly insisted that the Blues pledge not to try to sign any more Napoli players and has since publicly criticised Sarri several times.

Asked if he misses De Laurentiis, Sarri replied: “At the moment, no.”

He added that he is not surprised to be the target of his outspoken former employer “because he is used to doing it.”

Sarri has more pressing issues to deal with at his new club — not least providing clarity on the futures of academy graduates Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham, who have both been linked with loan moves away from Stamford Bridge before the end of August in search of more consistent first-team football.

Sarri revealed he expects Loftus-Cheek to stay until January after speaking to him this week, and added that he is in no hurry to let go of Abraham either.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked if Abraham will stay. “It’s up to him if he wants to remain here. We are very happy with him, so I think that, until January, he will stay with us. I think.”

Loftus-Cheek was dropped from Chelsea’s matchday squad to make room for loan signing Mateo Kovacic against Arsenal last week, while Abraham has not made the substitutes’ bench in either of the Blues’ opening two Premier League games.

Sarri was keen to stress that more of his squad will see minutes once the Carabao Cup and Europa League begin in September, but warned there are no assurances of a regular spot in his strongest starting XI for anyone.

“It’s not so easy in this period because we play only once a week,” he said. “But I told the team that, this month, they have to be patient. In the future, starting from September, I think we play three times three-games-a-week, so there will be space for everybody.”

On the subject of Loftus-Cheek, Sarri added: “I am not able to promise anything to anybody. It’s up to him [whether or not he is happy to stay], I think. I usually look at the training and then I decide. So it’s up to him only.”