Maurizio Sarri only lasted a single season as Chelsea manager, but the Italian became a hero for many supporters with his unique personality and the cult of ‘Sarriball’.
Sarri was appointed to replace Antonio Conte in the summer of 2018 following his stellar work in charge of Napoli.
And, despite struggling for consistency in the Premier League and infuriating a section of the club’s fanbase with his stubbornness, the chain-smoking tactician led Chelsea to Europa League glory in May 2019 before leaving for Juventus.
But how did his signings get on in west London? We’ve taken a look at Sarri’s six signings at Stamford Bridge and what they’re doing five years on.
Rewind to the winter of 2018-19 and Jorginho was widely seen as Sarri’s man. And that wasn’t a good thing.
Signed from Napoli for £50 million, having rejected Manchester City, the midfielder completed 158 passes in a single game against Newcastle but soon became the poster boy for the side’s ponderous style of football.
But the Italy international did win over the Chelsea supporters after Sarri’s departure, making 213 appearances for the Blues and playing a major role in their Champions League triumph in 2021.
He left for Arsenal in January 2023 and has proven to be an important squad member for Mikel Arteta’s title hopefuls.
Yes, Green was a classic ‘quota-filling’ signing and failed to make a single appearance for Chelsea.
But the picture of him holding the Europa League trophy aloft, in full goalkeeper kit, after beating Arsenal 4-1 in the final is one of the more iconic images in the club’s history.
The former England shot-stopper retired immediately after the 2018-19 season concluded and now is a mainstay of BBC Radio 5Live’s football coverage.
Rob Green didn't play a minute for Chelsea.
He was one of the first players to get his hands on the Europa League trophy 🥳 pic.twitter.com/aoYvn6mcSc
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 29, 2020
Sarri made Kepa the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, bringing the Spaniard from Athletic Bilbao for a whopping £72million. That record still stands; Kepa’s reputation does not.
A passable debut season will always be remembered for his refusal to be substituted in the League Cup final, a decision that left Sarri seemingly on the verge of walking out of Wembley Stadium.
And his form wavered under Frank Lampard, who bought Edouard Mendy to replace him between the sticks.
Kepa has made 163 appearances for Chelsea, regaining his starting spot last season, but rarely looked like an elite goalkeeper. The Blues were happy to loan him to Real Madrid in August 2023 and reconciliation appears unlikely.
Kovacic for Barkley. Barkley for Kovacic. Left foot. Right foot. Left. Right. The remorseless passage of time, soundtrack by dreary repetitiveness and like-for-like substitutions.
Yes, we all remember February 2019’s hottest meme. But, after initially signing on loan from Real Madrid, Kovacic became an integral player under Lampard and Thomas Tuchel after Chelsea made the move permanent after Sarri left.
A classy operator, the Croatia international was another crucial component in the Champions League-winning side and made 221 appearances for Chelsea before leaving for Manchester City this summer.
Pulisic never played under Sarri, but it was the Italian that sanctioned the £58million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in January 2019 – six months before Chelsea’s transfer ban came into play.
There was lots of expectation about the USMNT talisman at Stamford Bridge, but he only rarely delivered on the hype. Like many other talented attackers, Stamford Bridge became something of a graveyard for Pulisic, who only produced in fits and starts.
He scored 11 goals in his debut season, but never topped that tally and saw his playing time decrease. Everyone was relieved when he joined AC Milan in the summer of 2023.
"I wish I had been given more of an opportunity."
Christian Pulisic was left frustrated by his spell at Chelsea 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/v9Ky2oQq3j
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) July 13, 2023
Chelsea needed goals in the winter of 2019 and Higuain was meant to be a guaranteed remedy to their impotency; strong, intelligent and clinical, the Argentina international had scored for fun at Napoli and was regarded as one of the world’s best strikers.
A six-month loan promised much, but delivered very little. Higuain struggled in London and scored just five times in 19 appearances. The club quietly packed him back to Italy.
After spending the final three years of his career in the MLS, scoring 29 times for Inter Miami before they were cool, Higuain announced his retirement at the end of 2022.
“I’ve scored over 350 goals and people, not really everyone because now on social media everyone has a voice and it just seems like it’s everyone, but when I’d be in the streets or on the pitch, I never get any of those comments that you then see on social media,” he told GOAL.
“In those moments, I suffer, but maybe without those bad moments, I wouldn’t have enjoyed some of the success that I had later.
“Sometimes, you score three goals and miss the fourth and that’s what they remember, but I’m more than proud and glad of the success that I had.”