Maurizio Sarri was quick to deliver a reality check to Napoli fans after defeating Serie A leaders Fiorentina 2-1 on Sunday.
A precise curling effort from Lorenzo Insigne put the hosts ahead early in the second half, only for Nikola Kalinic to level when he ran onto Josip Ilicic’s pass to prod past Pepe Reina.
But Fiorentina were level for only two minutes, as Dries Mertens played in Gonzalo Higuain for the winning goal, which puts Napoli in fourth, three points adrift of their opponents after eight matches.
Despite their promising start to the campaign, Sarri refuses to consider his side as genuine title contenders at present.
“I am a realist. I know we are fourth or fifth in the table, so the rest is dreams,” he said.
“It’s right for the fans to dream, but as professionals we have to focus on work.
“It’s a marathon of 38 kilometres and we’re only eight kilometres in, so anyone who thinks he’s already won after eight kilometres is mad.
“It’s very difficult to compare this season with the last. It’s true the foundations are the same, but we have brought in six or seven new players and sometimes elements are outside our control that can influence the performance of a team.”
Sarri was also quick to praise Marek Hamsik, who laid on the first goal for Insigne with an incisive pass.
“Marek Hamsik is one of the best midfielders in Europe right now,” Sarri said. “I don’t think playing a few metres further up the field made that much of a difference last season, though he was perhaps psychologically below par.
“I don’t know if all champions are like this or I was fortunate enough to start with a group that was so eager to get to work.
“They’ve always been very open to changes and I have seen no difference between training champions and regular players. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.”