Spalletti talks Napoli WhatsApp group, Koulibaly and truth about Totti and Icardi

Luciano Spalletti detailed his close working relationship with the Napoli squad, the departures of club icons and his relationships with Francesco Totti and Mauro Icardi.

The Partenopei’s Serie A season got off to an exciting start as they beat Hellas Verona 5-2 in their opening fixture. Spalletti will be hoping to guide his team to a top four finish again this season, which would be an impressive result considering the transitional nature of the squad.

Speaking to DAZN, Spalletti first discussed what’s needed with this new Napoli.

“When you make such a drastic difference with the team you need some time, to grow other leaders. 

“We already have some, like Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Anguissa, Osimhen himself has to become a point of reference. I have already started to tell them.”

He spoke about his close relationship with the squad and their private WhatsApp group.

“With the players we also have a WhatsApp group where we compare and tell each other things. Ours is called ‘Sarò con te.’ Of course I used it in games where I was forced to stay home, like in the away match against Juventus

“I remember at that time everyone was saying that maybe the game should be postponed because we had so many players out with COVID. I conveyed to them through my message that I was glad they let us play it, before there was officiating. 

“Because I had seen them train seriously, strongly, correctly. They had expressed in practice their desire to play. For many it was one of the few games available to them, and to take it away would have been unfair. It showed that these players can be trusted as well.”

The Napoli coach touched on the changes from Lorenzo Insigne to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

“He is fond of 77, he wanted it right away. We expect a lot from Kvaratskhelia because he replaced a champion, who decided to make new acquaintances, take a different path after so many years of Italian football, national team and quality goals. 

“We must always stay with the will of the players because when a player decides to go for an experience as Insigne wanted, it is useless to keep him unnecessarily. I hoped until the last minute that he would stay with us.”

Spalletti discussed his tactical mindset and what he wants to implement with the team.

“The best thing will be to go forward with the belief that the qualities of the players make a difference. We have to develop a tactical plan in which the players find their best qualities and are able to express all the flair and imagination, the talent they possess. 

“Without trying to limit them. We will start again with the 4-3-3 used often last year, hoping that it will give us a chance to develop a game that is appreciated by a demanding fan base like the Neapolitans. 

“The Napoli fan is a football connoisseur and has seen real champions play, the strongest one of all. They have seen Diego. It becomes difficult to be able to hide something from them, they will catch you right away.”

The Italian coach spoke about defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who left Napoli for Chelsea in a €40m transfer earlier this summer.

“From the beginning, when we met, we had a good relationship. Every morning he would come to my office and greet me with this hug made of muscle, of Watt. He is the real locker room influencer because he could inspire everybody. The Commander. 

“For me it’s like losing a collaborator because then on the pitch with his voice, his physical prowess he was like a coach. He always wanted to attack, to go and retrieve high balls. 

“The word was always the same: ‘Eat, eat, eat.’ That is, let’s go ahead, let’s fight. Unfortunately, I lost two captains in one fell swoop.”

He remembered two of his former players, Totti at Roma and Icardi at Inter.

“Those who were there know all the good I loved them, I did things for them that I didn’t do for other footballers. It bothers me when they say I made them stop because it is absolutely not true. 

“Totti finished when everyone knew I was leaving at the end of the year, so they could have let him continue. Icardi did not leave with me but when Conte was already there. 

“He could have used him, he was an Inter player. Insigne I did everything to try to convince him but he with his family had already made his decision.”

Finally, Spalletti commented on his relationship with Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

“They were betting that it would be hard to get to the end of the season, instead then we often meet. We have our points of view but for now there is a good dialogue. 

“We are of those who like to say things to each other’s faces, him probably more than me, he is a really tough president in many ways.”

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