Trophy-less with Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, Garcia faces an even bigger challenge at Napoli
ROME (AP) — Unable to achieve the desired results with Cristiano Ronaldo at Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, Rudi Garcia is facing an even bigger challenge as the new coach of Italian champion Napoli.
Garcia was hired to replace Luciano Spalletti, who is taking a year off from soccer after guiding Napoli to its first Serie A title since the days when Diego Maradona played for the club.
“Any coach who sits on Napoli’s bench next season knows that it’s a difficult job. Because when you win the title, in order to improve you need to repeat, and that won’t be easy,” Garcia said on Monday at his presentation at the Capodimonte national museum on a hill overlooking Naples.
“The players know they need to make an even bigger effort,” Garcia added. “I’m not going to revolutionize everything but I’ll make my imprint. For instance, the 4-3-3 seems to fit this team like a glove. But you also need to know how to change during games. I want intelligent players who can without relying only on Plan A. … The good thing about this team is that everyone runs. I’ve got to make sure they keep running — with and without the ball.”
Garcia signed a two-year contract with an option for a third season. The 59-year-old Frenchman is no stranger to Italian soccer, having coached Roma from 2013-16.
“It’s destiny. I was replaced by Spalletti at Roma and now I’m following him after his great season at Napoli,” Garcia said.
Garcia left Al Nassr by mutual agreement in April after failing to secure first place despite Ronaldo’s arrival in January.
Napoli fans have just as high expectations, as demonstrated when Garcia was greeted by a large banner from Napoli’s hard-core “ultra” supporters that read: “Benvenuto in vetta Monsieur. Difendiamola” — “Welcome to the top Monsieur. Let’s defend it.”
Garcia said the fans have every right to think that way.
“When I arrived in the city and saw all the banners, I realized how proud the fans and the city are for their team,” Garcia said. “And I hope that happens in the future, too.”
Known for employing similar tactics to Spalletti with a heavy emphasis on speedy wingers — see Gervinho and Mohamed Salah at Roma — Garcia appears to be the perfect fit for a Napoli team that likes to work through Georgia dribbling wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the left wing.
“I hope so,” Garcia said. “I’m not a chef but I’ve got to keep this group going on the fire.”
While stating a goal of reaching the Champions League final, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis also said of Garcia: “We need to do a good job of letting him do his job without piling on too much pressure.
“He’s a coach who knows how to play the cords of a violin and turn it into a Stradivari,” De Laurentiis added, making an analogy of how Garcia uses his players.
While defender Kim Min-jae is expected to leave, Napoli is hoping to keep Serie A scoring leader Victor Osimhen.
“I’ve said for a while now that Osimhen should stay. But if an offer that can’t be refused comes in, we’ll see,” De Laurentiis said. “We’ve laid down the basis for a two-year contract extension.”
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf
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