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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri never made it as a professional footballer, but the Italian played semi-professional football and had loved the sport from his youth.

Sarri who was a banker before he became a manager has revealed that he played football as a kid growing up in his village, and even went semi-professional.

In an exclusive interview with the official Chelsea website, Sarri revealed that he played as a right-back and centre-back in those days.

“In the team I played in we were semi-professional, and there were five or six thousand people at our games. At the beginning is was on the right of the defence and then at centre-back but the football was absolutely different from now.

“It was man-marking and I had to follow a man for 90 minutes and it was a disaster!

“I used to love the training. I loved being in a group and part of a team. I had a real taste for working hard and sweating. The match was more like suffering! Because of the type of football at the time. A struggle.”

Sarri has been famed for his Sarri-ball style of play, as the Italian plays an attractive high-pressing and possession football, and he revealed that even as a defender he loved to have fun on the pitch.

He said: “My job as a defender may have been to stop opponents playing but the first time I went to the pitch I wanted to have fun and so I think it is the same now, otherwise it is only work, only a job. I cannot see a reason for football without fun.”

Sarri then spoke about the height of his playing career and when he started to learn about the tactical part of the game.

He said: “When it came to watching football, sometimes I went to see Napoli play in the European Cup. I remember very well Napoli against Real Madrid [in 1987] with a goal scored for Real by Emilio Butragueno. So sometimes I saw games but of course I had to play, so I was only going for the matches during the week on a Wednesday, for the European Cup.

“In those days I was not studying the tactics too much. I only started to see football in another way with Arrigo Sacchi’s coaching at AC Milan. Then I started to see more the tactical part of the match.

“I played until I was 33 years old. The highlight of my playing career? I liked very much the week, to stay with the team-mates and to have training, but then I remember that we played a friendly match against the Soviet Union in 1976 or 1977. They played in Florence because they were on a training camp.

“I remember on the Soviet Union players’ shirts was the CCCP letters and my direct opponent was Oleg Blokhin who had won the Ballon d’Or in 1975. It was a disaster! He was very fast.”

About the Author

Chelsea is more than just a football club to me; it's a passion I share, and my affinity with the Chelsea badge is one that will last forever. As far as watching my favourite team is concerned, I'd rather miss a meal than miss a Chelsea game.