The Blues boss is hoping to channel his paternal side to get the best out of his club’s striker
Maurizio Sarri has described himself as Gonzalo Higuain’s ‘football father’, as he talked about his ability to get the best out of the new Chelsea signing after reuniting with the striker.
Higuain’s brace in last weekend’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town means that he has scored 37 goals in 37 league games under the Blues boss, dating back to when the pair worked together at Napoli.
Chelsea signed Higuain in January, as they took over AC Milan’s loan arrangement with Juventus, with an option to buy the 31-year-old for £32 million ($41m) at the end of the season.
The reunion is already showing signs that it will help a previously struggling Chelsea attack and Sarri spoke about his special relationship with the Argentina international.
“I hope that I am the football father [of Higuain],” Sarri told reporters. “Mentally, I think that we’re the same. I think that Gonzalo is suitable for my football. So the feeling is really fantastic, it is a football feeling.
“He needs confidence, first of all. He needs a very good relationship with the coach and his team-mates. Sometimes he needs a message from the coach in the press conference.
“At the moment, he is really very keen. He can play a really good season, in the last part of the season. As you have seen in the last match, Eden passed the ball to Gonzalo very often. They speak the same language with the ball. So I think that Gonzalo will be important for us.”
With Sarri as his manager, Higuain broke the Serie A record for goals in a season, scoring 35 times in 36 games during the 2015-16 campaign.
Sarri said after the season that Higuain should win the Ballon d’Or and he stands by his statement, telling reporters: “I told this after the season in Naples. That season he really was the best striker in Europe.”
The manager also went on to praise the strength of character of his new No.9, noting how he bounced back from difficult misses prior to his record-breaking season with Napoli.
“In my first season in Naples, he arrived late for the training camp,” Sarri added. “He missed the penalty in his last Serie A match, he had missed a penalty in the (2015) Copa America final but he reacted very well.
“He played an exceptional season. He is able to react really well despite the difficulties.”
Sarri is preparing his team to travel to face Manchester City on Sunday where he will be going up against his friend Pep Guardiola.
The pair have similarities in their footballing philosophies and spent time together last summer, as they both met with legendary Italian football coach Arrigo Sacchi.
Guardiola has previously said that he and Sarri are from “the same school” and that education comes from Sacchi. Like the man who revolutionised AC Milan in the 1990s, Sarri didn’t come from a professional football background and spent much of his life as an international banker.
The 60-year-old coach thinks that the upcoming Premier League match will show off ideas given to them by the man both he and Guardiola admire.
“Usually, we go to Arrigo Sacchi,” Sarri added. “It is very interesting when you can listen to Arrigo speaking about football. I think he is the father of our football, of Guardiola and my football. It is very important to listen.”