Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis spoke to Sky Sports News in England about Arsenal, Rafa Benitez, Gonzalo Higuain and that moped incident.
The Partenopei play at the Emirates tonight in the Champions League, a head-to-head for leadership of Group F.
“It’s very tough, because the Gunners are very, very strong. We met them last August, but today will be a different game. We don’t play with fear. We play, we just enjoy and I hope it will be a very good match for the supporters,” said the patron in a live interview this morning.
He was asked whether Benitez would be at the club for as long as Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal, considering the high turnover of tacticians in Serie A.
“My culture is the movie business and in the past I already had a long relationship with directors. Christian De Sica, the son of great director Vittorio De Sica, has been working with me for 30 years.
“Rafa is a very nice man, he is always smiling, relaxed, so I enjoy seeing him. I hope it will be a very long relationship.
“I respect my word. I said until the season was not ended, I would not be in touch with anyone else. (Walter) Mazzarri would decide. The day after the tournament ended, I flew out to meet Benitez. He was so nice that he convinced me immediately.
“The final game was on May 25 and the day after we spent all day at a Chinese restaurant in one of the most important hotels in London. Over eight hours we finalised everything, so it was very fast.”
De Laurentiis assured the supporters will not protest at Benitez’s squad rotation system, even after a surprise 1-1 home draw with Sassuolo.
“The fans are never controversial with the club or the Coach in Naples. Since I arrived we have this culture – everyone has their job, everyone must respect their job. Period.”
Napoli should start Higuain this evening against Arsenal, the club that had been very eager to sign him from Real Madrid this summer.
“Higuain it was very fast, as we were negotiating with a Brazilian guy (Damiao, ndr). Now all the image rights have to belong to me and anyone who doesn’t won’t work with me. We had a lot of trouble with this Brazilian guy,” explained De Laurentiis.
“We were in the mountains with the team and I asked my people, should we call Real Madrid? In 10 minutes it was done for €38m plus add-ons. Now call Higuain’s father and brother, who are his agents. The day after we went to Venice for eight hours closed in a room and did a deal. It was easy. I didn’t know Arsenal wanted him, as nobody told me. I’m sorry, Arsenal!”
Edinson Cavani was sold to Paris Saint-Germain, but was he ever close to joining an English club?
“Manchester City visited me in Rome, but they just offered around €35m, so I didn’t accept. If I was to say ciao to Cavani, then I needed the money to buy another champion.”
Udinese’s Pozzo family own Watford FC, so is De Laurentiis considering buying up a club in England?
“I am very attracted by England and the United States. The United States is a new land where you can make everything from zero.
“England is the real soccer domain. I am interested to explore, but right now I am just exploring, because I am very involved in the movie business and we are also involved in the opening and closing Olympic Games ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro, so it is a crazy moment for us.”
Finally, De Laurentiis was asked about the legendary incident in which he stormed out of the Serie A fixture list ceremony and hailed a passing man on a moped to escape the media.
“It was very funny. I was in a Sky studio for the calendar. I disagreed completely with my general manager, as I instructed him for certain calendars which didn’t occur, so I walked away.
“Everyone was behind me and they didn’t understand I was against my general manager. My driver was in the restaurant, as he thought he had two hours to have dinner.
“I saw this poor man with a moped and jumped on the back. He said ‘Who are you?’ ‘President of Napoli.’ ‘Napoli who?’ ‘The Team.’ ‘I don’t know anything about soccer!’ ‘Ok, just go, go, go!’”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!