Football News

“Granovskaia wanted to keep me” – Unpopular former Chelsea manager regrets pushing to leave club

By Harry Edwards

Published: 13:20, 6 July 2021

Maurizio Sarri has revealed Marina Granovskaia tried to get him to stay at Chelsea before his departure to Juventus in 2019.

Sarri was the man tasked with replacing Antonio Conte at Chelsea in 2018, having built a name for himself at Napoli, turning them into one of the most exciting teams in Europe and a close rival to Juventus for the Serie A title.

In his final season at Napoli, Sarri led the club to second in Serie A with 91 points, just four behind champions Juventus and the most a runner up in Italy’s top flight has ever achieved.

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He took over a Chelsea side that had gone from Premier League champions to a fifth-placed finish, missing out on the Champions League and ending the 2017/18 campaign with FA Cup glory. The goal for Sarri was clear, get Chelsea back to the Champions League while playing exciting attacking football.

While he did get Chelsea back to the Champions League and won the Europa League, ‘Sarri-ball’ came under a lot of criticism especially from the Blues fans that watched it week in, week out, with the side often struggling to break down tougher defences despite dominating possession.

When Sarri left for Juventus at the end of the season, his departure was met with happiness from Chelsea fans, not only because it brought the arrival of Blues legend Frank Lampard.

However, the Italian has revealed those within the club did not feel the same as their fanbase and instead wanted to keep him from joining Juventus as was his desire.

“Marina Granovskaia wanted to keep me from leaving Chelsea,” Sarri told Sportitalia. “Today I say that it was a mistake to want to return to Italy at all costs.

“Chelsea are a great club, in the following years they have taken many young players [who would have been] suitable for me.

“I lived a particular year, in which [Roman] Abramovich could not enter England and we had an owner who was not present.

“A rather difficult situation, all in the hands of Marina and she had a thousand problems to solve, the football aspect was in the hands of us as the staff, but with not having the economic power required.

“Then came [Timo] Werner, [Kai] Havertz, [Mason] Mount, [Hakim] Ziyech – all suited to me and my way of playing.”

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Chelsea and Sarri’s differing paths

Since Sarri left Chelsea to join Juventus, himself and the club have had two very different journeys though both have ended in silverware.

After winning the first major trophy of his career in the Europa League at Chelsea, Sarri would go on to lift Serie A with Juventus and the Supercoppa Italiana, though that would not be good enough for the club as another quarter-final exit in the Champions League was deemed failure. Again criticised for his football, Sarri parted ways with Juventus at the end of the season to be replaced by Andrea Pirlo but currently stands as the most recent Bianconeri manager to win the title following their drop.

For Chelsea, Lampard’s arrival came at a period of transition in which they were banned from transfers in the first summer window, only able to bring in Mateo Kovacic who had previously been at the club on loan. Lampard kept the team in the Champions League using the likes of Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, though the Blues did drop from third to fourth and lost the FA Cup final.

The Chelsea legend’s second season, in which he had signed Werner, Havertz and Ziyech, did not go down well and he left in January 2021 as the third-worst Blues manager in the Roman Abramovich era with a win percentage of 52.4%. Sarri, in comparison, won 60.3% of his games at Chelsea, putting him eighth out of 15 (including those managers with two spells).

Lampard was then replaced by Thomas Tuchel who would lead Chelsea to their second Champions League triumph while also trumping both his predecessor and Sarri in terms of win percentage, with a respectable 66.7% – only betted by Jose Mourinho’s first spell and Guus Hiddink’s initial term as interim manager.

After a year out of management, Sarri returned to the game this summer, announced as the new manager of Lazio on a two-year contract, tasked with getting the capital club back to the Champions League.