MILAN (Reuters) – Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti and club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis insist that harmony has returned to the Serie A club following a tumultuous month but it remains to be seen whether they have regained the trust of their fans.
Napoli’s San Paolo stadium was only one third full for their previous league game, in the early days of the crisis, when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Genoa in a lukewarm atmosphere amid insults and jeers from the home supporters.
A disciplined performance in Wednesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw at Liverpool dispelled any doubts about the commitment of the players but they will have to wait until Sunday’s Serie A match at home to Bologna to see if they have won over the public.
Although Napoli’s fans are famous for their passion, they are also fickle and the average home attendance this season has been 32,592, a modest seventh in Serie A. And, despite their much-improved performance on Tuesday, they still extended their winless run to seven matches in all competitions.
The problem blew up after Di Laurentiis ordered week-long “ritiro” — a widely disliked practice dating from the 1970s where players are confined to a training camp or hotel — following a 2-1 loss to AS Roma on Nov. 2.
The players refused to return to the camp following a Champions League match against Salzburg four days later, prompting the club to announce legal action against them. Italian media reported this week that the players would be fined between one quarter and one half of a month’s wages.
Still, after Wednesday’s performance, De Laurentiis appeared to be in a conciliatory mood.
“This was the perfect response,” he said on Twitter, in his first public comments since the crisis broke out.
“Well done to the players and the coach. Now, we have to work hard and treat the next games as if they were against Liverpool. Today is not the day to talk about measures taken by the club against the players. We will resolve these issues between us without external pressure.”
Ancelotti also insisted that Napoli would recover from a run which has seen them drop to seventh in Serie A table — far removed from their usual role as the main challengers to Juventus.
“This is a healthy environment, especially in the dressing-room, with everyone determined to get out of this moment,” he said.
“There has been, and there will be, a lot of criticism, but we must be objective. There will always be difficult moments, the important thing is not to lose your heads. And we haven’t lost ours. The road we have taken is the right one”.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)