ANOTHER summer comes and another Chelsea manager goes.
Sixty cigarettes-a-day Maurizio Sarri gone in a puff of smoke after less than a year at a club where the manager’s parking space is on a short-stay meter.
The significant difference this time is of the ten casualties of owner Roman Abramovich’s brutal 16-year regime, Sarri is the first to resign.
The Italian claims he is homesick — the Chelsea fans were sick of him long ago!
But either way Sarri is now heading home free to resume his second favourite pastime because Juventus’ Allianz Stadium is not subject to a smoking ban.
Sarri, 60, wanted out and this is new to Chelsea. Well, it has not happened for at least a week since the club’s best player Eden Hazard signed for Real Madrid.
Abramovich is now having to get used to people telling him where to go, or in fact where they want to go.
For years managers at Chelsea accepted they had a limited shelf life and knew what was waiting at the end. Two — maybe three — years then a sinister training-ground visit from Abramovich’s henchmen and a P45.
But it was always the Russian calling the shots. Not any more and perhaps it is a wider statement Chelsea is not the force it once was.
The Blues were happy to keep him in place, even though many supporters derided his neat, passing style.
The ficklest fans in football turned to another ‘f’ word on the terraces when outlining their thoughts on ‘Sarriball’.
It was dismissed as boring. Yet Sarri’s brief regime which ended with the tracksuited pensioner landing a major blow to Chelsea’s lofty self-image was anything but.
He completed a hat-trick of trophy years for Chelsea, adding the Europa League last month to the previous season’s FA Cup and the Premier League the year before that.
There was cap-kicking, player bust-ups, run-ins with the FA, rucks with opposition coaches, thrashings, crowd unrest, bizarre superstitions and daft stories about his beloved dog.
Seeing Sarri boot his club-issue baseball cap high in the air during a strop on the eve of the Europa League final in Azerbaijan will be the last abiding memory of his brief tenure.
Upset that he had no privacy to practise set-pieces because of media intrusion he produced an angry lob of the sort that goal-shy striker Gonzalo Higuain could only dream of.
Higuain, of course, had only just been involved in a shoving match with team-mate David Luiz right in front of the whirring cameras.
When the goalkeeper Kepa refused to be subbed in the Carabao Cup Final in February, Sarri stormed away from the dugout towards the Wembley exit only to about face, claim it was no big deal then drop the bloke for the next game.
Dressed like a hospital orderly in baggy blue scrubs, Sarri did not exactly cut a dashing figure on the touchline and this was actually a big issue for Chelsea.
ONE JOB MAN
He was old-school. A football coach and obsessed with tactics and training.
Sarri had no profile other than as a coach. He could not dazzle a TV camera like the piano key smile of Jurgen Klopp. He did not have the charisma of Pep Guardiola.
And in brand-aware modern football, image means more dosh for the club.
Instead, you always knew when Sarri was coming into a room before he arrived because of the frontal wind of fag smoke and its tell-tale odour.
But he would then answer every searching question about his players with searing honesty.
Young and old players copped it whether you were rookie Callum Hudson-Odoi or World Cup winner N’Golo Kante.
He did not give a hoot when the Chelsea fans called for his head as his team grabbed a vital win away at Cardiff with an offside goal.
Every player needed to improve, even if you were Hazard, who has just cost Real £150million.
Lots of his men grew to love his gruff ways. On the evening of Chelsea’s end-of-season awards do, he put it about that he was not attending.
Several players crashed into his office to demand his appearance when it was then revealed he was pulling their legs.
Sarri was sent off against Burnley for wandering aimlessly out of his technical area too many times.
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He claimed the away team backroom staff called him a ‘s**t Italian’ the same night — an accusation that came to nothing.
Refusing to tread on the pitch or touch the matchball but touching his todger for good luck in press conferences, Sarri was everything you could want from a Chelsea manager really.
He will be a tough act to follow.