Napoli midfielder Stanislav Lobotka explained what he believes to be the secret behind the clubs success this season and offered an update on his renewal talks. The Slovakian International has enjoyed one of his best seasons with the Partenopei, becoming the lynchpin of coach Luciano Spalletti’s midfield three, helping them to an 18 point lead at the top of the table and a potential quarter-final in the Champions League.
Speaking with Il Corriere dello Sport, the 28-year-old talked about the incredible season the club are enjoying and why comparisons between him and Barcelona legend Andre Iniesta are a little wide of the mark:
“Iniesta? I know that many compare me to him but I, of course, think I am a different player. It’s nice to be compared to Iniesta, it’s a huge satisfaction, but at times I also had the impression that everyone expected a lot from me and that may have created a form of pressure as well’.
When did you realise that this Napoli were really a great team?
“At the training camp. A lot of people had left but you could see and you knew that the new guys would keep the quality up. Then in the first Champions League games we had important responses from ourselves, our confidence grew, we were convinced of our strength, of what Spalletti was telling us.”
“We started to play as nobody expected, the group’s personality came out. Spalletti was very good at making us understand his idea of football, which we already knew for a year. And now we are here, happy with what we are doing, with the happiness we are giving to fans. But we are aware that there are still too many matches left in the championship, that it will be forbidden to get distracted, that it will be better to follow the indications of our coach: one step at a time, match by match.”
Is there a secret?
“I don’t know if it’s a chemistry, certainly a series of factors: (Cristiano) Giuntoli’s skill in choosing the right players; Spalletti’s strength that improves us; the serenity that the club gives us. Then there is hunger within each of us, we want the Scudetto, we want to give it to our fans who are a source of energy inside and outside the stadium. And you may not feel well at that moment, you may not feel in top condition, but when you feel the passion of the people you have to be able to give something more.”
“The Champions League? It’s a dream for everyone, for me too, but we know it’s difficult, very difficult. But we have nothing to lose, we will play without pressure, we are not like Real Madrid, who will feel it, so we will feel ‘lighter’, but determined. If we manage to get through the round, we might meet them and we will face them – them or anyone else – with the conviction that we can play them.”
“The Scudetto? By now we are starting to feel it inside. The feeling that it’s getting closer is getting stronger and stronger, race after race, after every win.”
“Contract renewal? Let’s say I’m at a good point, we’re talking. It is clear that I want to stay here and without a shadow of a doubt.”