Napoli President Denies Rift With Manager Maurizio Sarri as Italians Exit Champions League

Published on: 08 March 2017

Napoli's very outspoken president Aurelio De Laurentiis has praised his team's manager Maurizio Sarri after the Italians were knocked out of the Champions League last 16 by Spanish giants Real Madrid, losing 6-2 on aggregate.

Di Laurentiis, a prominent Italian film producer, had no complaints and his comments were a contrast to the first leg three weeks ago when he bitterly criticised their performance.

"Even though the result was the same as the first leg, I wasn't disappointed like I was in Madrid," Di Laurentiis told reporters viaDaily Mail.

"It was an exemplary first half, and the team gave everything in the second half, but Real are Real. Playing against the best team in the world has been a great success for us."

He was quick to deny reports in Italian media that Sarri would be leaving at the end of the season and after all, the eccentricmanager has turned Napoli into Serie A'smost entertaining and highest-scoring team this season.

"There has never been an friction with Sarri, what happened was that I said after the first leg that team had looked deflated and unmotivated,"he said.

"I have always spoken of Sarri as a football connoisseur and an excellent coach."

Sarriis in his second season in charge of the Italian outfit, having led them to runners-up spot in Serie A last season. They are currently lying in third, two points behind AS Roma and a further 10 points adrift of leadersJuventus.

He said Tuesday's performance had given the team confidence, despite the scoreline."I have the sensation we are not far away from their standard,' said the coach.

"We made life very tough for a very strong team, even though we had several young players on the pitch.

"If we look at the game and forget the bitterness of the result, there is reason to be hopeful for the future.

"They are a young squad with a bright future ahead of them. The last step is the hardest but I feel we can do it."