Maurizio Sarri accomplished the greatest feat of his Italian coaching career earlier today by winning the Serie A title with Juventus, also becoming the oldest man to do so after Nils Liedholm at AS Roma in the 1980s.
Juve’s ninth consecutive title was delivered with a 2-0 home win over Sampdoria, although all three crown contenders Inter Milan, Atalanta and Lazio all managed to continue dropping points to make the task of the Bianconeri easier at the end.
Sarri’s remarkable career landed him a banking job to pursue his dream as a football manager, and now that he is in his prime, his enthusiasm was visible.
“He has a special feeling, of course. It is difficult to win, it gets even more complicated to keep winning because taking something for granted in sports is one of the biggest lies in the world.
“It wasn’t a walk in the park. It’s been long, difficult, stressful, and this team deserves a lot of credit for continuing to find the hunger and determination to keep going after eight straight wins.
“I left the field because I was trying to avoid having a bucket of water thrown at me, because it was obviously on the way, but I couldn’t escape.
No club in Europe’s top five leagues has ever pulled off Juve’s feat of winning nine straight titles, and Sarri was quick to pass praise to some of his superstars.
“Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala make a difference on the pitch so they clearly deserve a lot of credit, but the club behind them is just as important. We have a president and directors who get training every day, are there to exchange ideas, see if you need anything and put gasoline in the tank of this team. The club is a big part of why they were able to win for so many years. They support you even when you lose.
“In terms of organization, Juventus is at the top of European football. I couldn’t have asked for more. Obviously it takes a while to settle down, understand the approach, the way things work here, and then after a while you can start trying to tweak some things.
“You can’t walk right into a club that has won eight years in a row and immediately try to order changes. It wouldn’t be very smart.
Massimiliano Allegri left last summer after club management had had enough of his style of play and wanted to see more attacking football. In terms of goals scored it might have worked but defensively Juve have been appalling.
“There were tactical difficulties, trying to get all these very strong players and their different characteristics to work together. It wasn’t something to be taken for granted, as we’ve seen in previous years, as Dybala and Ronaldo haven’t really started together very often.
“They’re world class, but it’s not easy to get them to work with their characteristics. With a lot of work, I think we have succeeded.
The 2019-20 season will go down in the history books of the forced COVID-19 shutdown that resulted in a three-month campaign extension and remaining matches crammed into a twice-weekly schedule.
“Before the lockdown, we seemed to regain some strength, which we then lost again after the restart. I saw in a lot of teams during this time that they stretched out or sometimes lost focus, so maybe that was a general problem we all had after such a long break.
The veteran manager had at one point had open conversations with his team to try and resolve the communication issues regarding his vision.
“I think that happens more or less in any locker room, doesn’t it? We are all trying to look for improvements and find ways that everyone can be happy because this is a collaboration. The more openly we face problems, the easier we can resolve them. “
Sarri had rushed off the ground after the final whistle, claiming he was looking for a cigarette to smoke while avoiding getting sprayed.
“I told them, if you won with me who never won anything, you must be really good!
“The first day you walk in you see people, not just world class players. Over time, you indulge in them and the relationship turns from strictly professional to personal.
“The first day, I go into the locker room and I know that there are top players. After a while, you walk into it knowing that there are also some great guys you can count on. “