Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has opened up about the departure of former coach Luciano Spalletti and his lofty expectations for the club, including a desire to win the Champions League last season.
In a comprehensive press conference, De Laurentiis admitted fault in allowing Spalletti to leave despite activating a clause to extend his contract until 2025. He expressed regret over the decision, citing Spalletti’s pivotal role in guiding Napoli to their first Scudetto in 33 years.
“After the game against Monza I said it was my fault. I consider Napoli a family after 19 years, having the culture of doubt after winning a Scudetto hurts. I took all the blame because I gave Spalletti a good contract, the same as Benitez. I exercised the option which is unilateral, but many think it is bilateral. The option was for another year and I had to communicate this in writing by the end of May.”
“Since March 2023 the team has had a decline. The star then was Kvaratskhelia who did not score from March to November. Such a drop of a star can create problems for you. There were a lot of points then in the league, but I was disappointed with the elimination in the Champions League because I thought I would win it. Winning the Scudetto after 33 years was very important, but if we had also won the Champions League it would have secured me participation in the 2025 World Club Championship, which is worth 100 million more. During an award ceremony, before the Champions League games with AC Milan, I said that Spalletti would have stayed with us. We won 4-0 in the league, then lost in the Champions League in the first leg and drew in the return. On 21 April, to boost Spalletti’s morale, I legally sent him the exercise of the option for the following season. Never would I have believed that at the dinner on 12 May he would announce his desire to take a sabbatical year. My mistake was to accept his request out of gratitude for having brought back the Scudetto after 33 years’.
“I have to give credit to Spalletti that after a first year in which I cleared out characters who were not rowing in favour of the club, despite being professionals, in the second year he decided to sleep here. This means not wasting time, staying on the ball and waking up at night.”
“I cannot understand what the reasons were for Spalletti’s departure. The only non-malevolent interpretation I want to give is the desire to leave as a winner. If he had already anticipated signing a contract with Gravina for the national team, these are inferences I cannot make.”
“Future? I think about 2030, so that this club has the means to compete economically with the strongest teams in the world. Someone accused us for not having invested in young players. In reality we brought a second team (Bari, ed.) from Serie D to the threshold of Serie A, bringing out players owned by Napoli like Cheddira and Folorunsho. This year we will close the budget with 80 million profit and a reserve of 140 million, but it’s not money I put in my pocket”.
“Thiago Motta was on Spalletti’s list of possible replacements. In a six-hour conversation in Rome, however, he told me that he was aiming to coach teams outside Italy, whose names I won’t mention. When Luis Enrique’s lawyer came to me, we talked for days, but then he preferred Paris Saint Germain. There are clubs with more riches than Napoli that are more attractive”.
“Garcia? He was the best coach in Ligue 1 in 2011. At Roma he finished second for two years with a locker room that was not easy to manage. In 2017-2018 he reached the Europa League final with Marseille and in 2019-20 he made the semi-finals of the Champions League by eliminating Juventus and Manchester City. What should I have done when he said in Capodimonte that he had not seen Napoli matches? If I had sent him home immediately what would the piazza have thought? If I had brought Mazzarri in straight away what would you have said? I tried to give Garcia opportunities and possibilities by talking to him. When he listened, like at Lecce, we won 4-0. As soon as I left he did questionable things and then we lost. I sent him away because the last time, against Empoli, I went down to the locker room before the game and he said ‘leave me alone’ when I made criticisms. Either I sent him packing or I kept quiet.
“Kvaratskhelia? I called his entourage three months ago, we met here in Castel Volturno. I also wrote down what I wanted to do to extend his contract, but they told me he’s fine in Napoli and to talk about it again at the end of the season”.
“With Florentino Perez we have been talking for some time, I explained to him that the idea of the Super League is wrong. I told him that he has to think about a parallel league to the national championship which is a priority over everything as it reflects and respects the fans”.