Why Maurizio Sarri Was Right To Resign At Lazio


Maurizio Sarri is an emotional man who is known to wear his heart on his sleeve. From being vocal about the state of modern day football, players playing too many games in 2024 and his own ideas about the game, Sarri is opinionated and never holds back from expressing himself. Call him an idealist or a perfectionist, he is what he is and that is refreshing to see.

His resignation from Lazio is another example of his thought process, as the ex-Chelsea and Juventus boss leaves behind a good chunk of money on the table to seek his exit. That says a lot about Sarri, whose decision to depart exhibits boldness and a tendency to look at the bigger picture instead of the money. 

With Sarri’s assistant Giovanni Martusciello taking over on an interim basis until the end of the season, the club are ninth in the table after the recent loss to Udinese and are eight points away from potential Champions League qualification. Bayern Munich dumped them out of the Champions League a week ago and while the Coppa Italia provides them hope of silverware, the ex-Napoli manager probably didn’t see a point in competing for silverware if the vision of the club and himself didn’t align.

It is vital to remember that the Biancocelesti finished second in Serie A last season. That happened despite the club not actually truly playing like a Sarri team that dominates possession in every game.

Last season, they were eighth for average possession percentage and that isn’t something one would associate with Sarri’s system. Even when it comes to xG generated, they were eighth and closer to ninth-placed Sassuolo than seventh-placed Juventus.

If Sarri could take them to second without the proper implementation of his system, things could be so much better if he was allowed the platform at Lazio to fully be himself.

But certain things at the club held the Italian back and those reasons were key for why he tended his resignation. And those reasons tell us exactly why the resignation is justified.

Crippled relationship with CEO Claudio Lotito

Reports in recent months have stated that the relationship between Sarri and CEO Claudio Lotito isn’t great by any means. The duo had disagreements about transfers and policy, leading to a difference in opinion about how the club should be run and the direction in which it should go. 

The disagreements properly came to the fore in the summer, when the manager vetoed moves that Lotito ideally wanted. While Lotito was prepared to go ahead with a move for Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, Sarri declined the chance. Arsen Zacharyan was also on the verge of joining and a deal seemed done, but Sarri torpedoed the move at the very end and it fell through.

It isn’t just actions that have highlighted Sarri’s bad relationship with Lotito, but his words have too.

After Lazio’s loss to Atalanta earlier in the season, Sarri reportedly told his players that if they think he is the problem, they should “show some b***s and tell Lotito” in what was an outburst against the scenario he found himself in at the Stadio Olimpico.

Despite the clear talk of a rift between the two, Lotito always mentioned that Sarri was not going to be sacked. Reports in Italy stated financial reasons were key, as Lazio would have to pay out the remainder of Sarri’s deal if they sacked him. But Sarri stuck to his principles and left without asking for any money.

Discrepancies about transfers

While Sarri did veto moves for Lloris and Zacharyan, it did not end there. The Biancocelesti lost Sergej Milinković-Savić in the summer to Al Hilal and brought in Nicolo Rovella, Matteo Guendouzi and Daichi Kamada in midfield. With the club crying out for an effective back-up to Ciro Immobile, Lazio also signed little known Taty Castellanos, but the move has proved to be rather strange.

A number of players that Sarri wanted were not signed and that includes the likes of Torino’s Samuele Ricci, Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski (who played under Sarri at Napoli and Empoli) and Partenopei striker Giovanni Simeone. 

Earlier in the season, Sarri ended up being vocal about how he didn’t get the players he needed without actually mentioning the names of players that he didn’t need.

He told the press after losing to Fiorentina: Everyone signs who they want. It seems to me that in July, the club were clear about who was doing the transfers. If I ask you for a player who is plan A, and you make me choose between C and D. It’s not like I handled the transfer window.”

In hindsight and considering how things have gone, it doesn’t seem as if Sarri wanted the likes of Castellanos or Kamada. The Japanese has barely made a mark and hasn’t broken into the first-team, while Castellanos hasn’t proved to be prolific even when he has played and in a way, Immobile’s injury issues have exposed him.

In a way, Sarri has never questioned the quality of the signings that he has been handed. He has only questioned their suitability to his system and that the players he wanted would have suited his system more. 

Was the system ever imposed?

At Juventus, Chelsea, and Napoli, one could always see the way Sarri’s sides played. They dominated possession, relied on third-man runs from midfield and always operated in a 4-3-3, with one regista, one advanced midfielder and one box-to-box midfielder. At Lazio, that hasn’t been the case. 

Let alone last season, Sarri’s Lazio couldn’t get a fundamental Sarriball idea right even this season – dominating possession. 

They are ninth in Serie A for average possession and that is a far cry from Sarri’s previous setups at other clubs. Even from an eye-test perspective, Lazio seem to operate more as counter attack-oriented side under Sarri and that is very much opposite to how the Italian wants his teams to play.

A part of it could be down to the players at hand, with Sarri himself having been vocal about combinations in midfield and Luis Alberto’s playing style specifically.

He said before the first leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League: “Luis Alberto is our most attacking midfielder, he comes deeper to get the ball, he really likes to play the ball. Luis can’t be the attacking midfielder I want, I want an attacking midfielder who attacks spaces.”

While that might be a sly shot at the club’s inability to back him in the transfer window with the players he wanted, it also exposes how the current players might not have been best at helping him impose his own style. As a result, Lazio don’t seem to have transitioned too far from the foundation provided by Simone Inzaghi, as they seemed reactive instead of pro-active even under Sarri.

Players and fans losing trust?

Not too long ago, Sarri had mentioned in an interview that he would leave the club when he feels that he is a problem. And considering how the fans protested after the loss to Udinese and how feeble the performance seemed, it gave the impression that carrying on would have been a lost cause.

Not too long ago, it was reported by Corriere dello Sport that there was an air of heaviness at Lazio and that Sarri was losing trust of the squad. His annoyance with the situation at the club and how the transfer window panned out was becoming more and more obvious. He seemed like a tired man in a circumstance that just didn’t suit him anymore.

It gave the impression that with his ideas about the club not matching with that of the higher-ups, he was the one who was the odd one out and the man who was the outsider. 

After the defeat to Udinese, Lazio fans protested and booed and the club announced that they would go into a training retreat. As Sarri sent in his resignation, no players spoke up against the decision and that says a lot about how far things have fallen for the Roman giants.

Considering the situation Sarri found himself in, he was in a helpless situation. There was little backing from the club’s board or the players, while the fans constantly protested. Carrying on would have seemed rather futile. If anything, the fact that he’s leaving money behind should send a message to Lotito that the Italian was never in it for the cash. He was always in it for the vision and to execute his ideas as best as he could. 

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