MAURIZIO SARRI’S incredible journey from banker to Premier League manager was inspired by the man he must beat tomorrow – Claudio Ranieri.
The two Italians are about as close as you can get to ‘friends’ in football says Chelsea head coach Sarri as he prepares to face new Fulham boss Ranieri at Stamford Bridge.
Reuters5 Maurizio Sarri says Claudio Ranieri was his inspiration on his journey from banker to Premier League
Sarri, 59, transformed his life by ditching the world of high-finance for the uber demands of the beautiful game when he turned 40 and used Ranieri as his initial guide.
He said: “I went to speak to him when he was the coach of Fiorentina, 20 years ago, maybe. I don't remember it very well and I don't think he can remember this meeting. But I lived very near to Florence, very near to the stadium of Florence. I went very often to see the training.
“I was a coach, maybe in Serie D and the most important category of the non-professional teams, it was around 1999 or 2000. It was easier for me than him because I was the coach of a little team near to Florence. Antella in the south part of Florence, very close to the training ground of Fiorentina.
“Usually Claudio’s teams are really very solid. They usually defend very well, sometimes low, but very well. Usually he has a team which is very dangerous at counter-attacks, like he did in Leicester, but not only in Leicester. Of course he inspired me.
Reuters5 Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri takes his side to Stamford Bridge on Sunday
PA:Press Association5 The two Italians are as close as you can get to friends in football
“I also watched his Chelsea teams play. But it was more difficult then than now of course. Now it's very easy, with television you can see every match of the Premier League in Italy. Twenty years ago you were able to see no more than one match a week.”
Trailblazer Ranieri became one of the first Italians to coach in the Premier League when he accepted the job as Chelsea boss.
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He was at the helm when his own life was revolutionised by the takeover of Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge.
Ranieri enjoyed the huge financial backing of the Russian tycoon but also became the first sacking of the Abramovich era as money and pressure increased hand-in-hand and have continued to do so.
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Ranieri and Sarri renewed their brainstorming relationship together during the summer when the former was out of work having been axed again – after winning the Premier League title with Leicester.
Sarri said: “I spoke with him for three days – I don't remember exactly – one month ago, or maybe 45 days ago. He came to Cobham to see two, maybe three training sessions. He wanted to speak with me and to Gianfranco Zola.”
Ranieri admitted as soon as he was back in work on a 19-month contract with tomorrow’s opposition that while being a football manager drives you mad, being unemployed is even worse.
Sarri said: “I don't know. It depends. Usually you can live very well for two, three months, then you're in trouble. Every coach, I think, is like this. For two months you're happy because you have time, and after two months you miss adrenaline.