And now the end is near for Maurizio Sarri, who can at least say “I did it my way.” Despite his smiles at the end of this one-sided final, few expect the Italian to be in charge when Chelsea return from pre-season training in July.
But wherever he washes up next, possibly back in Italy, he can look back on his single season at Stamford Bridge with a measure of success. Finishing third in the Premier League and winning the Europa League might be considered a pretty good season for most clubs, but not for Chelsea, where Rafa Benitez left with little fanfare after achieving the same double six years ago.
The difference was that the Spaniard was only acting as caretaker manager, having been drafted in mid-season when Roberto Di Matteo was sacked. Sarri was lured from Napoli last summer, however, with the prospect of a brave new dawn at Chelsea, who appear to change managers on an almost annual basis.
He was supposed to bring with him to London ‘Sarriball’, the free-flowing, attacking and successful football that won the admiration of Roman Abramovich. But it never really worked out for him, and while Manchester City, Liverpool and to some extent Tottenham played some breathtaking football, Chelsea fans made their feelings clear during a stodgy mid-season period.
“F**k Sarriball” was the chant from Chelsea fans, and even their manager admitted he did not know what it was all about. Boardroom rumblings soon followed, and the rumours started circulating in spring that he would be gone at the end of the season, most likely going back to Italy.
It was no coincidence that Bruce Buck, the Chelsea chairman was spotted talking to Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juventus, who have a vacancy after Massimiliano Allegri quit at the end of the season. Could a swap deal be on the cards? Frank Lampard has also been mentioned, but it most likely that Chelsea will go for a proven winner, and Allegri fits the bill.
Sarri is also a winner now, of course, but is it too late to repair the poor relationship with the supporters, board and even, it is thought, some players? If he goes after tonight, Sarri can say he went out on a high, a 4-1 thrashing of London rivals in a major final, and a third-placed finish that guarantees a return to the Champions League. But this is Chelsea, and different rules apply.