The Italian delivered Europa League glory in his first and only season in charge at Stamford Bridge, while he also secured a third-place finish in the Premier League
After 12 games of the 2018/19 season, Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea looked like a match made in heaven.
The Italian broke the record for the longest unbeaten run at the start of a Premier League managerial career.
That sequence of fixtures included games against three of the other ‘Big Six’, in Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.
They were four points behind the eventually champions Manchester City at the time, but there was every reason to be optimistic.
Just as there was at the end of his only season in charge of the west Londoners, with Europa League glory and a third-place finish in the Premier League secured.
Just as the Italian’s methods began to be paying off, he now returns to Serie A with Juventus.
However, the 60-year-old can leave with his head held high after enduring a rollercoaster season full of contrasting emotions.
The writing looked to be on the wall for Sarri after a troubling sequence of four defeats in seven games across all competitions, as well as the embarrassing Carabao Cup final incident which saw goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refuse to be substituted against Manchester City.
Other managers would have walked away then and said enough was enough. Many were calling for him to be axed, with his control of the dressing room now in major doubt.
However, he proved all those doubters wrong – with real signs that ‘Sarriball’ was coming into fruition towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
What Pep Guardiola has achieved at Manchester City has been mightily impressive, but it didn’t happen overnight.
In his first full season in charge of City, they finished third in the Premier League and were FA Cup semi-finalists. Unlike Sarri, the Spaniard didn’t deliver a trophy during that period.
Jurgen Klopp also had to wait nearly four years to land his first piece of silverware at Liverpool – the Champions League.
But with those two, you always sensed they’d get the time to build their own ideologies and get the resources to strengthen in the areas they needed to – and thus success would eventually follow.
With Sarri, you get the feeling the Chelsea board changed their minds over him so many times already, and while the former should be grateful for the opportunity to manage one of Europe’s biggest clubs – thus winning his first trophy as a manager – at the same time it’s been a bitter sweet experience.
Former players have also weighed in with their opinions of Sarri of late. One of them being Cesc Fabregas, who rarely featured under the Italian before moving to Monaco in January.
The experienced midfielder pointed towards his former manager’s ‘stubbornness’ to move away from his own methods and ideas, claiming he listens to no-one else and will ‘never change’ in that respect.
While Sarri obviously has his limitations, it never felt like he was truly appreciated or loved by the fans, nor did he get the backing by the board that he felt he deserved.
Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a Rafa Benitez situation here, the vitriol he received during his stint at Stamford Bridge was on a whole new level.
The fan mutiny he experienced at Cardiff back in April, with supporters calling for Sarri to be sacked, seemed to be the final nail in his coffin.
But at the same time, for all the setbacks Sarri has endured and for what he has subsequently accomplished with this squad, his achievements have not been given the recognition they truly deserve.
The emotion on his face when he lifted the Europa League was one of pure elation, but at the same time relief.
Was Sarri ever really the right fit at Stamford Bridge? But at the same time who has really been the genuine long-term solution during Roman Abramovich’s 16-year tenure to date?
Maybe it was never truly meant to be for Sarri and Chelsea, such are some things in life, but his departure leaves a real sense of what could have been.