Arrigo Sacchi is regularly found at the tables of Perla Verde in the swish resort of Milano Marittima on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
This is where Sacchi launched his book and celebrates birthdays and often meets ambitious coaches who travel in the hope of picking his brain and trading ideas over grilled prawns and an octopus salad.
So it did not go unnoticed when the legend of Italian coaching returned in June with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri who had been recently deposed at Napoli and was only a month away from confirmation as the next manager of Chelsea.
Former manager Arrigo Sacchi revolutionised football with AC Milan between 1987 and 1991
‘We are very similar,’ agreed Sacchi, as he told Sportsmail of the relationship of the trio on the eve of City’s trip to Stamford Bridge. ‘We all think in football there are values: emotions, the performance, the combination; musicality, harmony, courage, ideas, innovation.
‘I admire all the coaches who try to impose their game because I believe you can acquire more knowledge by doing this than in undermining the game. Being optimistic helps to grow self-esteem and leads to a higher culture.
‘Being optimistic means not being afraid of the future and not being afraid of emotion. It means trying to renew it even when the team wins. In football we used to say, “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” but that’s not really correct.’
Listen to Sacchi and you can hear Guardiola. At Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola proved expert at turning champions into multiple champions. At Barca, he took his success into the Champions League. At Manchester City, he is trying to do it again.
‘I cannot see into the future,’ shrugged Sacchi when asked about City’s ambition in Europe. ‘If City were an orchestra I would listen carefully. They play with harmony, the right tempo and the correct movements. The experience is lacking to win the Champions League.
‘To improve you have to take a risk. It is the base of every adventure. One has to evolve and innovate. When this road isn’t followed you remain tied to the past.’
Sacchi with his managerial disciples, Chelsea's Maurizio Sarri and Man City's Pep Guardiola
The 72-year-old feels strong connections to Guardiola and Sarri. Like Sarri, a banker, he had no career as a professional player. Sacchi was a shoe salesman who had worked his way to Parma in Serie B when his stylish football caught the attention of Silvio Berlusconi when they beat his Milan in the Italian Cup.
Like Guardiola, who was plucked unexpectedly by Joan Laporta from Barcelona B a decade ago, his experience was questioned when he was put in control of one of Europe’s most prestigious teams because the club president had fallen for his footballing philosophy.
‘Maurizio is doing a great job at Chelsea,’ said Sacchi. ‘He is a great loss and it is a pity for Italian football where most coaches rely heavily on their managerial skills, tactics and the qualities of the individual to remedy the collective poverty of ideas.
‘This does not help to raise the level of the game which remains the same. So whoever has the best players wins.’
Listen to Sacchi and you can hear Guardiola - 72-year-old feels connection to Man City boss
Sacchi first encountered Sarri’s football at Empoli in Serie B when he was scouting young Italian players for the youth teams.
‘I was amazed by the football Empoli played,’ he said. ‘So I sent two of the national youth coaches, Alberigo Evani and Luigi di Biagio, to follow Sarri’s training sessions. I met him and followed him into Serie A, and I suggested (chief executive) Adriano Galliani should take him to Milan but Berlusconi did not take him on and it was a big mistake.
‘People like Sarri are coaches to save you money. They also earn you money because they believe more in their ideas than in the players’ feet.’
Sacchi once hailed Sarri’s Napoli as a ‘masterpiece’ and is sure he can produce something similar in London.
‘I can see there is a will to follow him,’ he said, backing the Chelsea manager’s faith in Jorginho as the deepest midfielder despite the theory that it reduces the influence of N’Golo Kante.
Sacchi hailed Sarri’s Napoli as a ‘masterpiece’ and is sure he can produce similar in London
‘Kante is a great player; extraordinary in his generosity, for the number of times he steals the ball but when it comes to game