Did Smoking Lead to Former Blues Manager Losing the Dressing Room?
Former Chelsea manager and current Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri has become iconic for his tendency to light up a cigarette on the touchline during games. While stadium bans have in recent times, led the Italian to chew cigarette butts rather than smoke them, it’s thought that the 61-year-old still gets through at least 80 a day.
Many have commented that it seems strange Sarri insisted on chewing unlit cigarettes rather vape or use alternative nicotine products, such as Swedish snus. As this article on how to use nicotine pouches explains, snus is consumed by placing the product on the inside of the user’s top lip, and has become popular with professional athletes around the world for the benefits it offers over cigarettes.
Snus is reported to provide short-term benefits of nicotine, including increased awareness and physical and mental sharpness, and is considered more socially acceptable – and discreet – than cigarettes. Top footballers including England’s Jamie Vardy and Ashley Cole have reportedly consumed the product throughout their respective careers in lieu of other tobacco products.
Perhaps it was through an old-school mentality or superstition, but Sarri refused to ditch the cigarettes at Stamford Bridge in favour of other products, with owner Roman Abramovich reportedly ordering club staff to create him his own smoking area after the Italian was allegedly dismayed at the UK’s smoking ban.
Although in many ways, Sarri was considered more relaxed than his predecessor Antonio Conte when it came to players’ diets and social activities, his habit allegedly became a source of contention amongst players, who already had started to resent and become ‘bored’ by the training regimes implemented by the manager and his staff. Chelsea stars were reportedly ‘irked’ by Sarri and his coaching team frequently smoking or vaping throughout training at Cobham, believing the conduct to be unprofessional.
Despite leading his side to a Europa League victory in his single season at Stamford Bridge, Sarri reportedly failed to command the full respect of his dressing room – particularly evident in the EFL Cup Final against Manchester City, in which goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga publicly humiliated his coach by refusing to be substituted; Chelsea subsequently lost the game in a penalty shootout.
Although his iconic smoking habit is unlikely to be the sole reason he lost the respect of his players, it may well have been a trigger point in his tumultuous spell at the Bridge.