Winning the scudetto was the minimum requirement but in a difficult season Sarri kept his team on track without excelling
Maurizio Sarri, covered in shaving foam, celebrates in the dressing room after winning his first Serie A title as Juventus manager.
Juventus had just won their ninth consecutive Serie A title, but their manager was nowhere to be seen. As the final whistle sounded at the end of a 2-0 win over Sampdoria, Maurizio Sarri headed immediately down into the tunnel, leaving his players to celebrate on the pitch at an empty Allianz Stadium.
They would catch up with him soon enough. Wojciech Szczęsny barged in on Sarri’s post-game interview to hand him a lit cigarette, telling him “you earned it”. Back in the changing room, Juan Cuadrado maintained his Scudetto tradition of smothering his boss in shaving foam.
Sarri joked that he had fled the pitch in the hope of avoiding this sort of drenching. Perhaps, in truth, he simply had not known what to do with himself. He had just claimed his first Serie A title at the age of 61, becoming the oldest manager ever to win the competition.
This is not a future he envisaged back when he was still trading currency in his day job for the Banca Toscana at the start of his 40s. Nor even when he quit. “I stopped [working for the bank] because I was bored and I had this other great passion,” said Sarri last week. “My objective was to make a life in this profession. It was not a decision to arrive at the highest national or European levels.”
And yet, here he is. Sarri was in self-effacing mode as he joked with Juventus’s players: “If you’ve won with me, you really must be good.” He allowed himself a little more credit during his TV interviews, as he reminded viewers that this triumph came on the heels of a Europa League win at Chelsea last term.
Winning Serie A, it must be acknowledged, is a minimum expectation for Juventus. They have not exactly crossed the finish line in style. They blew a first opportunity to seal the deal when they allowed relegation-threatened Udinese to come from a goal down to beat them on Thursday. Juventus had won only one of their previous four games before that.
This was supposed to be the most compelling title race in years, but the coronavirus lockdown threw all the runners off their stride. Lazio, one point behind at the restart, lost five of their first eight games back – an injury-depleted squad collapsing under the demands of an abbreviated schedule. Inter chucked away leads against Bologna, Verona and Sassuolo. Continue reading