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What did we learn from Maurizio Sarri’s first press conference?

6:34 pm, 18th July 2018

“Call me Maurizio. Just Maurizio,” is how Maurizio Sarri referred to himself when asked, ignoring the temptation to follow in the footsteps of “special”, “happy” or “normal” ones who have gone before.

That was perhaps the clearest indication of the kind of manager Chelsea fans can expect, neglecting to award himself a label as the likes of Jose Mourinho have relished.

Sarri is the first head coach Roman Abramovic has appointed who has yet to win a title. That is skewed a little by the fact he closed the gap on Serie A leaders Juventus, in terms of points, with each of the three seasons he was with the club.

But he certainly has something to prove in England, and was happy to rate it above the Italian top flight during his first press conference.

“This is a difficult challenge but a fascinating one,” he said. “Here we have the strongest coaches in the world and the strongest players in the world.

“I know this will be an extremely difficult challenge for me. The Premier League is different to Serie A because it is stronger at the moment.”

One of the main takeaways from Sarri’s first appearance was his prioritising of the word “fun”, in contrast to predecessor Antonio Conte, who preferred to accentuate the importance of “hard work” to the press.

That attitude reflects the kind of football his Napoli side were known for – although you have to wonder whether that description will hold up should Chelsea embark on a run of bad form.

Sarri declined to conduct his press conference in English, and we’ll probably get a better understanding of his personality when he does not have to operate through a translator – which he said should happen in a few weeks.

However, he did show a degree of humility in answering some tough questions on controversial comments he made during his time in Italy, admitting that he had made mistakes and insisting he was not racist, sexist or homophobic.

He also displayed a hint of his management style when asked about his desire to keep Chelsea’s big players – who he did not name individually – by saying he would want to speak face-to-face to them, look them in the eye and understand their desires.

Refusing a label is not the only way Sarri showed he was his own man; some players and managers might admit taking advice from friends and team-mates over possible moves, but the new Chelsea head coach is doing things his own way.

He said he had not spoken to his successor in Naples, Carlo Ancelotti, who was Chelsea boss from 2009 to 2011, or Conte, who left Stamford Bridge only this week, about taking over in west London – and left reporters in the room in little doubt as to why.

“I don’t want to be influenced by anything or anyone,” he said. “Antonio has reached incredible results, he is an extraordinary manager.

“I play in a slightly different way so it will take some time for the squad. Many players still have to come back from the World Cup.

“All good things that Antonio did should be left. It is very important to know how to impose one’s football philosophy in shorter times.”

What he would have learned, from Conte at least, was that his fellow Italian became frustrated by what he felt was a lack of control over transfer activity at Stamford Bridge.

And when pressed on persisting links to Gonzalo Higuain, Sarri not only refused to comment but said the transfer window “bored him”.

But whatever happens, he made clear he will make do with his lot when the window slams shut on August 9, and added only the squad at his disposal come the start of the season would determine what style he deploys in his debut season in England.