“It is really a pleasure for me to be here in London, the Premier League and at the moment the best championship in the world. I am happy to be here at Chelsea. I am sorry that my English is not so good, and didn’t want to have the press conference today as I don’t want to say anything wrong. I hope I will be able to do it in a few weeks. Sorry again and thank you.
Has the delay made it harder for you plan?
“No. I was not planning anything. I had to solve a situation with Napoli so I was not planning anything. I knew that Chelsea could be interested but then the situation was resolved a few days ago, so there are preparation difficulties and I have to solve them with my staff.
The challenge ahead. Did you speak to Carlo Ancelotti?
“Well for me this is a difficult challenge, but a fascinating one. I know it will be very difficult and here we have the strongest coaches in the world and players in the world. I know tt is difficult, but I have not asked anyone anything, honestly. I want to have this experience by myself, including mistakes. The Premier League is different to Serie A, because the Premier League is better. In Italy it is better tactically, but here there are stronger players. However, need to have fun to do well and I have noticed that in the last year something changed in the Premier League. It is not a typically English squad in terms of player but this has given me confidence. I know it will be difficult.”
Courtois, Hazard, Willian staying? What about players coming in?
“Well clearly we would always like to keep the strongest players, this is what any manager and club wants to do. We will have to see how the transfer market goes. But I want to clarify I feel I am more of a field manager, a pitch manager than a general manager. I think I am one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don’t want to talk about it, I am not that interested in it. I think our task as managers is about growing the players we have.”
Do you have to win trophies to keep your job?
“I don’t know and I am not interested. My goal is to have fun as long as I am here and be competitive in all competitions until the end. In life the biggest gift you may receive is have fun while you do your job. Few people have this and I hope it manages to happen to me.
“Sometimes yes, sometimes not. I think it is better not to whinge, but to enjoy.”
Will there be more entertaining football at Chelsea?
“I really hope so. Clearly football can be entertaining or not but much depends on the players. A good manager, if he has strong players, there has to be a lot of physicality and technical play. This depends on the characteristics about the final squad. I think if a team has fun often the fans do too. This is very important and then there is the high level objectives, but we must start by having fun. This is important for us and our fans.”
Did you leave Napoli on bad terms and with Aurelio De Laurentiis?
“I have a wonderful memory of Napoli, I love the people there and always will. If we didn’t part ways well with the club and the president, then I think mistakes have been made on both ways. Maybe the president misinterpreted some silences of mine, but this was the result of some uncertainties. For someone who thought it was time to go, but I was heartbroken. That is it. I think that over the next few years we will overcome this.”
How far away is the team from your philosophy and did you speak to Antonio Conte?
“I don’t want to be influenced by nothing and no one, or by judgements that have been made by people from a certain point or from a certain prospect. Antonio has reached incredible results here, he is an extraordinary manager. Clearly I play in a slightly different way so it will take time with the squad. This is a post World Cup time so many players will have to come back from the World Cup, it will take time to build a slightly different way of playing. All the good things Antonio Conte did must be left and not be changed, but it is also true that today’s football these are the timelines, it is very important also to know how to impose ones own football philosophy in shorter times, shorter than the past.”
Kalidou Koulibaly high of praise for you, how much time do you need before we see your style of football?
“Well it depends. In my previous experiences a few years ago I needed a long time. Once I needed three months, and I resisted thanks to the club’s far-sightedness, last time, because in Napoli we suffered in the first three matches and then started along a positive path. I hope I have improved and that this initial time has got shorter and that the quality of the players will see results while we are building the team.”
What is the first thing of Sarri that you will introduce to Chelsea?
“I do not want to change anything in the club’s philosophy but I think in the past years this has been one of the best clubs in England and in Europe. I want to bring my philosophy on the pitch. I always start from something. Ours is not a sport, but a game and anybody who plays a game starts doing that when they young, it is fun. The child in each of us must be nurtured because this often makes us the best. The professional aspect also brings out the best of us, but 99% of the time, not 100%. So to create a play that is fun is the first thing to obtain a style of play that is a very high level squad.”
What players do you want to bring in?
“I cannot name names, because I don’t know who they are. I spoke with the club and said that ideally I think that a pinch of quality is lacking in our central midfield for a certain type of play. Otherwise they are a very high level. At the end of the transfers it will be up to understand which type of game is the most suitable for the final squad. I cannot claim to come here change 20 players, I must adapt to Chelsea and the players and then we will see if we change some thing in my game, because the squad is making me play a different game because of their characteristics.”
What have you learned from Pep Guardiola?
“Well he is a class act, a champion and a genius. It is difficult to explain what his insights are. Clearly in the first year he had some difficulties as well, however 100 points in PL is an extraordinary feat, maybe something that cannot be repeated. We are talking about a genius and the first step is to fill in a gap, which was clear last year. A year before it was in favour of Chelsea. I hope last year was an occasional gap and not a structural one and we will work to make sure it was an occasional one.”
How did the job come about, did you speak to the club?
“Until a few days ago I did not speak with the club. Through my representative and my lawyer I knew there could be an interest and a possibility, but I wasn’t sure. I met the members of the club over the last few days, the end of last week. The club has not asked me anything. They asked me to build a season where we have to be competitive in all competitions. To do that we have to get to March or April in all competitions, this is the first step and then during the season we will see the specific objectives. For the time being we have spoken about this.”
Have you spoken to Roman Abramovich and his visa issues, transfer budgets and nothing has changed
“Well this is something where our owner is an extremely reserved person. I don’t want to start a work relationship with him by speaking about private things. I think that this is an extremely private relationship and I would also hope this relationship is respected, also given the characteristics of our owner.”
Gary Cahill’s future and English players?
“Well a number of English players is imposed in the players’ list so there will be English players. I never want to make this distinction, I am not bothered about nationality. They are neither English, French or other nationalities, they are strong or not strong. They are not young or old, they are strong or less strong. In respect to Cahill he can still give us a lot. In keeping the English players, in my experience in Italy something must be left. One of the teams that had the highest number of Italians was Juventus and their structure lead to important results. I think in multi-ethnic squads and the English ones, the teams of other countries we should respect a very long tradition. I think this is right.”
Response to previous homophobic and sexist comments.
“People make mistakes. One of these was made when I was angry, the other was not a mistake because it was a journalist with whom I shared jokes with for three years, it was misconstrued. These were mistakes, that is for sure. I think that those who know me very well cannot define me in this way, not homophobic or sexist or racist, absolutely not. I am an extremely open person and I do not have these kinds of problem and I hope to show this when I work here and live here. These mistakes were made and when someone makes a mistake they have to apologise and accept that some allegations could be made by the press. A professional and ethical approach is very important, more than apologies. I hope you get the chance to know me better and I hope you will forget about this very quickly.”
Mourinho called himself the special one, what you call yourself?
“I would like everyone here and in the club and my players, all of you just to call me Maurizio. Just Maurizio.”
What do you think about Mourinho?
“He has won everything and I think that is enough for a manager. He has won everything many times, with different clubs and I think someone who has this track record does not need a description. We are talking about a top level, world level coach and manager. I esteem Guardiola and the other managers, my playing philosophy is closest to Guardiola, but I really appreciate both of them in the same way.”
Have you contacted the World Cup players?
“I don’t think so, honestly. Clearly the players you are referring to are very high level players and I would like to keep them in my squad. But a telephone call without looking at them in the eyes would not give me any certainty. I would like to meet these players face to face to understand them and what the best thing is to do for everyone. Before that I would also like a player to come on the pitch for four and five days with me to have a clear idea on what the situation is.”
Talked about having fun, Hazard, looking forward to working with him?
“I was not talking about having fun in a press conference, I would like to have fun on the pitch and during the week and during the training sessions and I want to have fun and win matches.
“Hazard is a high level player and I think he is one of the top two or three European players. Obviously I would like to have fun during the week with him, this would mean very good results and we will have been very competitive at the end of the season. I hope I will manage to improve him, this is very difficult given he is at a very high level.
“With Mertens it is different. Dries had always been an external striker, everybody thought by necessity that he became a very high level player. We are talking about two very high level players. Dries has improved with me but started at a lower level to Hazard. I hope I will improve Hazard too, but this will be very difficult.”
Did you have concerns coming to a club who fire their managers early? Why will it be different here to win a trophy?
“If I was someone who always worried probably I would do another job. Our job means risks but also a lot of satisfaction. What happened at Chelsea in the past does not concern me. I am not afraid, I don’t want to be afraid.
“With respect to the rest, while it is true I haven’t won anything but I have been in Serie A three years and think apart from Juventus nobody has won anything. For three years in a row we had records with club points. In the first year 81 points, 82 was another record and 91 was as well.
“I think that we have worked very well and the difference in working well and winning is often minimal. I hope I will be able to fill in this gap with this club, the difference between doing well and winning. I hope so.”