Rafa Benitez believes Napoli “deserved to qualify” after finishing joint top with Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund.
The Partenopei beat Arsenal 2-0 this evening and missed out on qualification by just one goal in the head-to-head records, knocked out by Borussia’s late winner away to Olympique Marseille. They became the second team ever to go out of the Champions League with 12 points after Paris Saint-Germain in 1997-98.
“I think the key is to look at this as a stage during our growth process and proof we are on the right track. The fans and everyone should be proud of what Napoli have achieved,” the Coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“We should’ve scored a goal earlier, but we knew it was 1-1 in Marseille and we were afraid to push too hard in case Arsenal hit us on the break. The team gave its all and deserved both to win and to qualify, but that’s football.
“We did very well in Europe because there are more spaces than in Serie A. Our Champions League campaign has been very good, as to have 12 points and be so high up the Serie A standings with a new team is an achievement.
“I think the process means bringing in young players who can be here for many years and be part of the long-term project. Today we proved that with two or three additions we can compete in Serie A and at another level in the Champions League.
“You always think that you can do better and looking back two or three games we could’ve won made the difference. In Serie A with Juventus and Roma doing so well, our results don’t seem as impressive, but the truth is we’ve done very well.”
Napoli now go into the Europa League Round of 32, a tournament Benitez won last season with Chelsea.
“The Europa League doesn’t start until February, so we’ll think about Serie A for now.”
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!