Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri has vowed to prove Diego Maradona wrong after some stinging criticism from the former San Paolo star.
Having failed to win any of his first five Serie A games since replacing Rafael Benitez, Maradona claimed Sarri was “not worthy of Napoli” and that he should consider it “a gift” to have been appointed as head coach.
Despite only managing a draw against old club Empoli at the weekend, Sarri is determined to prove his worth as Napoli prepare to begin their Europa League campaign against Club Brugge on Thursday.
“What I can say about Maradona is that he’s a legend,” he said. “The fact he knows me is an honour. I’m not going to answer, I just hope to change his mind.
“The last few games have been different – against Empoli we fought back twice and then had them under siege for the last 20 minutes.
“We need good results to help us grow but focusing on performances for now is the right thing to do.
“We lack consistency. We play well in flashes but there’s always a negative.
“We have to improve quickly and getting a result would help us, but I’m concentrating on performances.”
Winger Dries Mertens is relishing the chance to get back into European competition and is determined to go one better than last season, when Napoli were beaten at the semi-final stage by Dnipro.
“It’s only the start but we always want to win something,” said the Belgium international.
“Last year we were unlucky against Dnipro with their offside goal and we didn’t get to the final, but this year we want to get there.
“We aim to get to the final and win. That was what the squad was thinking about last year. We have great quality, we have all the players from last year and we’ll be ready.”