LONDON — Maurizio Sarri insisted there will be no repeat of the insensitive comments that marred his time at Napoli as he was unveiled as Chelsea’s new head coach.
In 2016, Sarri was accused by then-Inter coach Roberto Mancini of using a gay slur in 2016 during a heated Coppa Italia semifinal, and in March responded in a news conference to a question by a female journalist about Napoli’s title chances by saying: “You’re a woman, you’re beautiful, and I won’t tell you to [expletive] off for those two reasons.”
The Telegraph reported last week that Sarri assured Chelsea before his appointment that he did not hold sexist or homophobic views, and at his unveiling on Wednesday the coach was keen to address the incidents in front of club director Marina Granovskaia and chairman Bruce Buck.
“People make mistakes,” he said through a translator. “One of these mistakes was made when I was angry. Another was not even a mistake — it was a journalist with whom I shared jokes for three years. It was misconstrued.
“These were mistakes, that is for sure. I think those who know me well cannot define me in this way. Homophobic, sexist, racist. Absolutely not. I am an extremely open person, I do not have these kind of problems. I hope I will show this when I am working here and living here.
“These mistakes were made yes, but when someone makes a mistake they must apologise and accept some allegations can be made by the press. A professional and ethical attitude is very important, more than apologies. I hope you will have the chance to get to know you better and forget about this very quickly.”
Sarri was confirmed as Chelsea’s new coach on a three-year contract last week after Antonio Conte was unceremoniously sacked, his position eventually made untenable by escalating public and private tensions with the board as well as high-profile clashes with senior players in his squad.
Conte’s fate despite winning the Premier League and FA Cup in two years at Stamford Bridge reinforced the notion that all managers have a relatively short shelf life at Chelsea, but Sarri insisted he is not concerned by his new club’s past record of sackings.
“If I was someone who always worried, probably I would do another job,” he added. “Our job means risks, but also a lot of satisfaction. What happened in Chelsea in the past doesn’t concern me because I don’t know these situations. I’m not afraid and I don’t want to be.
“It’s true I’ve not won anything but I’ve been in Serie A for five years and I think apart from Juventus, no one has won anything. In three years at Napoli we had record points every year.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.