Soccer

Football: Juventus axe Sarri after single season following Champions League exit

MILAN (REUTERS) – Serie A club Juventus have sacked title-winning coach Maurizio Sarri after only one season in charge, following the team’s elimination from the Champions League in the round of 16 on Friday (Aug 7), the Turin club said in a statement.

The 61-year-old was dismissed despite leading Juventus to the Serie A title two weeks ago, their ninth in a row.

On Friday night, Juventus were knocked out of the Champions League, the competition they have set their hearts on winning for the first time since 1996, on away goals by Olympique Lyonnais despite winning the second leg 2-1.

“Juventus Football Club announces that Maurizio Sarri has been relieved of his post as coach of the First Team,” the club said on its website.

“The club would like to thank the coach for having written a new page in Juventus’ history with the victory of the ninth-consecutive championship, the culmination of a personal journey that led him to climb all the divisions of Italian football,” it added.

His dismissal highlights the huge, and many say unreasonable, expectations at Europe’s biggest clubs, and Italian media including Gazzetta dello Sport quickly began speculating on his possible replacements.

Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi and Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane – a former Juve player – were among those mentioned, as well as Massimiliano Allegri, who made way for Sarri one year ago.

Pochettino and Allegri are both without clubs at present.

Sarri was hired to give Juventus a more flamboyant edge, but he struggled to impose his so-called “ Sarri-ball” high-tempo passing game on the Turin side.

He had been under pressure since his side lost to Napoli on penalties in the final of the Coppa Italia in June.

Juventus have become so dominant in Serie A in the last decade that winning the domestic league is regarded as almost an obligation, while the Champions League – which the club have not won since 1996 – is regarded as their main target.

Sarri, who never played football professionally, began coaching amateur teams back in the 1990s, managing to combine his hobby with a banking career that took him to the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

He coached 16 different sides in the lower division of the Italian league before reaching Serie A with Empoli in 2014.

Known as “Mr 33” because he reputedly thought up 33 different plans for set pieces, Sarri joined Napoli in 2016 and turned them into the side most likely to threaten Juve’s dominance.

He then spent one season at Chelsea, winning the Europa League with the London side, before joining Juventus.

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