Maurizio Sarri is determined to silence all of Napoli’s doubters, though he insisted it would be foolish to think Gonzalo Higuain is replaceable.
After finishing second behind Juventus last season, Napoli’s Scudetto aspirations have been dismissed by pundits and fans following the departure of star striker Higuain to the Italian champions.
But as Napoli prepare to kick-off their Serie A season at Pescara on Sunday, Sarri has called on his team to prove naysayers wrong.
“What we expect from this season is to reach 101 per cent of our potential, then we’ll see what that translates to,” said Sarri.
“There are high expectations around Napoli, but La Gazzetta dello Sport placed us fourth in their list of Scudetto contenders. A Juventus player didn’t even name us among the four best teams in Italy. Another Juve figure said we are weaker now.
“So let’s prove all the doubters wrong.”
Napoli were helpless as last season’s top goalscorer Higuain joined Juve in a deal worth €90million.
The exit left an obvious void in Napoli’s attacking third, after Higuain scored a league-best 36 Serie A goals, but Sarri said Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon, and recent signing Arkadiusz Milik can step up.
Sarri added: “In football things happen that are beyond expectation and prediction, but on paper Juve have the advantage. I don’t want to talk about a Juventus player, because when the Bianconeri spoke about Higuain and he was at Napoli, it riled me up.
“If we think that we can just replace a player who shattered every record in Serie A, then I don’t think we can do it. We must think of something different, base it on hard work.
“In pre-season we bolstered confidence because not only did we score many goals, but we did it with 17 different players. This is reassuring, but at the same time we cannot underestimate the loss of a player who scored 38 goals in all competition.
“It is impossible to find a striker who can guarantee the same things. Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon can score more than last term, while Milik did better than some of his illustrious predecessors at Ajax.”