Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has remarkably stated that he will not sign African players for the club unless they agree to not play in the African Cup of Nations.
Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly now at Chelsea and Cameroon midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa missed several Napoli games while on international duty at this year’s AFCON, which took place between January and February.
The 73-year-old says he ‘loves’ Napoli’s African players, but he rues having to pay them so much for the amount of time they are away.
“I love them, but either they sign something confirming they’ll back out of playing the Africa Cup of Nations, or otherwise between that tournament, the World Cup qualifiers in South America, these players are never available!… I never have them [Napoli players] available,” he said in a Wall Street Italia talk show.
He criticised the fact that clubs were agreeing to more and more games, suggesting a European tournament with the top clubs from the strongest five countries instead of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.
“The world of football cannot self-manage because we do the puppet show for others … if we could play 100 games, it would be a happy ending for everyone and we [clubs] like cretins agree to that.”
The Italian film producer also said he did not support the breakaway European Super League which folded less than 48 hours after it was announced last year as it was an elite club.
“You cannot create a super club of privileged members who invite others [to the league]. You need to democratically keep the door open for everyone,” he said.
De Laurentiis added he was tired of offers from investment funds for the club, adding that he was offered €900 million around four to five years ago by American investors.
“You [bidders] did not understand a thing [about me]. I am a pure entrepreneur who enjoys doing business … let me play,” he said.
“I want to be the 12th player on the pitch. Actually the 12th player is the fan, I can be the 13th or even the 14th, as 14 is my favourite number.”