The Rise Of Chelsea Boss Maurizio Sarri: Banker To Empoli To Premier League

It is bizarre to think that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri was about to embark on his first ever season in the top flight as recently as 2014-15. The former bank manager had spent years developing his career in the lower leagues before winning promotion to Serie A with Empoli the season before, and his fast-track ascent to one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs has all happened since. 

Sarri – born in Naples but raised in Tuscany – was a natural choice for Empoli owner Fabrizio Corsi, a boss who was very much in tune with this small club’s ethos. Supporters of this team situated just 12 miles away from Florence may be few in number, but they pride themselves as being one big family, with all of their main sponsors deliberately hailing from the region. 

The now-famous tactician had been brought by Empoli sporting director Marcello Carli in summer 2012, following his sacking from Lega Pro side Sorrento FC the previous December. 

“I chose Sarri because I remembered a madman on the benches of Sangiovannese and Sansovino,” the official revealed to La Gazzetta dello Sport in 2017. “He was a madman who made me feel real emotion. It didn't matter if he came from a series of sackings.

"He's a champion, a true friend,” Carli continued. “But at least three or four times we almost came to blows. I'm talking about real punches. He's a clever big head.” 

Such fiery behavior is the other kind of end product that originates from Sarri’s desire for absolute perfectionism, the reverse side of the coin to the beautiful football that now graces the pitch at Stamford Bridge. 

After honing his precise style at Empoli, the Blues won promotion to the top flight with Sarri with at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, the boss developing the likes of Daniele Rugani, Mario Rui, Simone Verdi, and Elseid Hysaj who were all part of his squad. They may be household names for all those who currently follow Italian top-flight football, but back then – just like Sarri himself – they were relative unknowns. 

Yet the coach was about to get noticed by Napoli as his superb work kept Empoli up the following year, a 15th-place finish impressive indeed as so many newly promoted sides end up going straight back to where they came from in their first term in Serie A. Former Middlesbrough striker Massimo Maccarone fired in 10 goals that year, but it was a different player who benefited from the nurturing of the coach. 

Riccardo Saponara had worked with Sarri at the Tuscan side in the early days of the boss’ tenure, the coach having converted the youngster from his original position as a winger to a new role as a No. 10. The player’s form from that moment brought about a move to AC Milan, but having not benefited from much playing time with the Rossoneri, he arrived back at Empoli midway through their first season in Serie A. 

Back with his mentor, his seven goals and three assists in 17 starts became critical for Empoli’s survival. 

“We wanted Saponara back precisely for this,” Sarri revealed after the forward scored a brace versus Sassuolo in March. “We felt he could revive his campaign with us. Unfortunately he arrived without good fitness levels and when he did get better he caught chickenpox, so that slowed down his development.

“He is a very sensitive lad, so these two goals will really boost his confidence. I am convinced he can have a great end to the season.”

Sarri had loved his work in developing young talent such as Saponara at Empoli, but he would make the decision to move to the city of his birth when Napoli came calling at the end of his first season in Serie A. 

“Perhaps there is a strong prejudice against me,” the tactician admitted after winning the Golden Hourglass prize in 2015. “Some believe that I'm a coach who can only handle Empoli and other clubs of the like. But every coach must work to prove otherwise, though to be honest I could stay with Empoli for life, because I'm very happy here.”

By making that difficult choice to leave Empoli, Maurizio Sarri proved had the necessary ambition and the drive within himself, his bravery and coaching ability having since taken him all the way to the Premier League. 


Chloe Beresford specializes in Serie A for a number of outlets and can be found on Twitter and on Facebook via her page CalcioByChloe.

MLS Little Things: New England Approaches The Arena Era

We’re back with some more Little Things, this time featuring the Revolution, who are approaching the Bruce Arena era; Real Salt Lake, with explanations for their inconsistency; and plenty more:

Three Thoughts From D.C. United's Loss To The Houston Dynamo

Wayne Rooney's early second half goal seemed to put D.C. United on track for a seven-point week on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, but two goals in two minutes later in the half gave the hosts all three points. 

Alejandro Bedoya On What Went Wrong With USA & More

The Philadelphia Union have enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 Major League Soccer season, with the Chester outfit (at the time of writing) sitting second in the Eastern Conference. Captain Alejandro Bedoya has been crucial to their early success and so FloFC figured this would be a good time to catch up with the former Nantes and Rangers midfielder.

Houston Dynamo Fight Back To Defeat D.C. United 2-1

Despite taking a lead early in the second half, D.C. United's troubles in Houston continued on Saturday night, as the Houston Dynamo fought back for a 2-1 win at BBVA Compass Stadium. Wayne Rooney's goal 25 seconds into the second half was negated by two goals in two minutes from substitutes Memo Rodriguez and Tommy McNamara. Paul Arriola then got a red card late on, harming United's chances of grabbing a late equalizer.

D.C. United Out For Another Result On The Road Against Houston Dynamo

D.C. United are back at it on Saturday in part two of a three-game road trip following their midweek draw against Toronto FC. They face a stiff test against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium in a matchup of two of the league’s best teams this year. The action is set to kick off at 8:30 PM ET, and coverage starts on FloFC at 8 PM ET for DMV viewers.

Graham Smith Answers Sporting KC's Call

After spending most of the 2018 campaign with Sporting KC’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers, center back Graham Smith has started the last two games for Sporting KC as the club fights through a number of injuries. 

DCU Face Another Talented Attack After Defensive Masterclass In Toronto

Fresh off a scoreless draw in which D.C. United were able to fend off the third most shots in MLS history (35), Ben Olsen’s men head to the Lone Star State in search of another positive result against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. The Black-and-Red will face another stiff test at the back when they line up opposite of one of the league’s most electrifying attacks

Yoann Damet Brings A New Attitude To FC Cincinnati

A change of coaches brought about a much needed change in attitude for FC Cincinnati. 

Breaking Down D.C. United's Scoreless Draw Against Toronto FC

D.C. United probably weren't awarded any style points by the judges last night against Toronto FC, but nonetheless, the Black-and-Red left BMO Field with a point in a 0-0 draw. United, with a heavily rotated squad, surrendered 35 shots throughout the game, the third most in a single game in MLS history. But few of those shots resulted in good scoring opportunities for the Reds, which allowed D.C. to keep their seventh clean sheet of the season.

10 Things In Italy: Lazio Wins Coppa & Belotti Stuns Sassuolo

Another seven interesting days have passed in the world of Italian football, so it’s time for this week’s edition of 10 Things to help you catch up with what has been happening in and around Serie A.