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Napoli's crisis exposes problems behind the scenes

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By Reuters
Napoli's crisis exposes problems behind the scenes
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Group E - Napoli v FC Salzburg - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - November 5, 2019 Napoli players applaud the fans after the match REUTERS/Ciro De Luca   -   Copyright  CIRO DE LUCA(Reuters)

MILAN (Reuters) – Napoli boast one of Serie A’s most flamboyant club owners and one of its most successful coaches yet this week’s events, which saw players rebel against a training retreat, have suggested that something has gone badly wrong behind the scenes.

Runners-up three times in the last four seasons and exponents of entertaining football throughout that time, Napoli have slumped to seventh and Saturday’s match at home to struggling Genoa has become a serious test.

The crisis erupted after owner Aurelio De Laurentiis ordered the team into a week-long training retreat, known as a “ritiro”, on Monday, even though such camps are seen by players as demeaning and outdated.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose future is now the subject of speculation, publicly disapproved and there were widespread reports that the players had ignored the decision following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Salzburg in the Champions League.

The club responded with a strongly-worded statement about protecting its rights which implied it would fine the players or even take legal action against them.

There were also reports of a dressing-room row between players and Di Laurentiis’ son Edoardo, who is vice-president, and also an angry video call between Ancelotti and De Laurentiis senior.

De Laurentiis, 70, a prominent Italian film producer, has resurrected Napoli since buying them in 2004 after they had been declared bankrupt and relegated to Serie C.

However, he also has a tendency for making incendiary declarations, for falling out with his coaches — such as Ancelotti’s predecessor Maurizio Sarri — and a reputation for interfering in team selection.

“Questionable methods but unquestionable entrepreneurial flair,” said Gazzetta dello Sport in an editorial on Thursday, saying that the club lacked an adequate management structure

“A man who looks to the future has taken a step back into the 20th century,” it added, referring to the ritiro.

Questions were also raised over Ancelotti who has won domestic titles in Germany, England, France, and Italy as well as the Champions League three times.

However, Ancelotti, who put his assistant and son David in charge for last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at AS Roma when he himself was suspended, has always seemed more comfortable at big clubs with spending power and where major titles were pretty much guaranteed — not the case with Napoli.

“A strong club would have spotted the revolt in the making and nipped it in the bud,” said Gazzetta.

“But if you send the president’s son to the dressing room to talk to the team and if the coach’s son goes on the bench in a delicate match, with all due respect to those people, there is something that doesn’t work.”

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)