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Napoli have missed out on the Champions League group stages in the most stunning fashion after conceding three goals in the space of 13 minutes against Athletic club. After failing to reach the Champions League group stages through automatic qualification spots, Napoli have had to play in the play-off against Spanish club Athletic. This was viewed as a tough encounter given that Athletic also have the experience of playing in the Champions League proper. The first leg at Napoli was an even affair and it finished as a 1-1 draw, which gave Athletic an advantage of the away goal.
Napoli cancelled out the away goal in the return leg after midfielder Marek Hamsik scored just minutes into the second half. Just when it seemed that Napoli would hang on and reach the group stages, Athletic had a stunning 50 minutes in which they scored three goals. Aduriz scored a brace during this period while Ibai’s goal in the 74th minute put the result beyond doubt. After the match, Napoli boss Rafa Benitez has had to face a barrage of criticism. Accepting the blame, the manager said that he did not want to blame his players for this defeat.
Napoli will be hoping that the lack of Champions League will motivate them towards a potential league title. The team start the league campaign with an away match against Genoa.
“Athletic deserved to score in the first half and didn’t. We took the lead, but in a few minutes we made some important mistakes and lost control of the game. We made mistakes on all three goals. Those goals allowed Athletic to gain confidence and we lost ours. Do I blame anyone? No, mistakes happen – they are not normal, but they happened anyway. We had worked over the week on specifics like corners, but we still made mistakes and clearly we still have work to do,” said Benitez.
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Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have been urged to move fast if they want to secure the services of Colombian hotshot James Rodriguez after Italian giants Napoli stepped up their pursuit of the player.
According to the player’s agent, contact has already been made with the club and its president Aurelio de Laurentiis and he was impressed immensely by his vision of the club for the future.
But he has also claimed that the Serie A giants are not the only club monitoring the progress of the prodigious 22 year old playmaker with English powerhouses Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur also reportedly keen on bringing him to the Premier League.
According to the player’s agent, he has spoken with the president of Napoli and went on to add that Aurelio de Laurentiis is a great person and is definitely one of the great club presidents he has seen and worked with.
He then went on to add that Neapolitans are not the only side that is keen on the player with some other clubs also expressing their interest in the player and he will have to wait and see what happens.
Rodriguez is currently in Brazil for the World Cup with Colombia and he has been one of the stars of the tournament with his three goals helping the team secure passage through to the second round.
The former FC Porto player, who is currently contracted to French club AS Monaco, was closely followed by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United before he made the move to France. But after one season with the principality side, he is keen to move on with many of his close aides expecting him to choose Napoli as he doesn’t rate English football much.
But whether the club has the finances to push such a deal is a different question.
Online video Score: five / 5
Rafa Benitez has once again started the war of words with Jose Mourinho after the Portuguese earlier claimed that Chelsea’s success in the Europa league last season under the Spaniard was not an achievement to be proud of. Mourinho was speaking after his team were involved in the Champions League quarter-final draw, while Benitez’ Napoli were part of the Europa league. Benitez successfully guided Chelsea to Europa league success after taking charge of the team midway through the campaign. By the time the Spaniard was appointed, Chelsea were on the brink of Champions League exit at the group stages.
Benitez has claimed that Mourinho likes to talk about people whereas he likes to talk about facts. The Spaniard has recalled that he managed to knock out a Chelsea team managed by Mourinho with his Liverpool team, which incidentally cost less than half of the Chelsea side. This happened in the 2005 Champions League semi-final when Liverpool managed to go on and achieve an incredible success in the competition. Benitez will have little to speak about Napoli’s campaign this season. After being involved in the Champions League group stages and finishing with 12 points, they were knocked out of the competition.
They have also been unable to prevent Juventus from winning the third straight league title despite spending £ 70 million in the summer.
“He speaks a lot about people – I like to talk about the facts. At Liverpool we eliminated his Chelsea from the Champions League with a team that cost half as much as his side,” said Benitez in response to the Chelsea manager’s latest comments. “Chelsea last year didn’t have a good season. They had problems qualifying for the Champions League and found themselves playing in the Europa with a team built for other objectives. If Juve win the Europa League it will mean nothing, as they were built for the Champions League,” said the Portuguese boss.
Movie Rating: 5 / 5