Rafa Benitez assures Napoli “have only just begun” after their heartbreaking Champions League exit.
The Partenopei finished joint top of Group F with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, but were dropped down to third because of one goal difference in the head-to-head records.
“It was strange to go out with 12 points, while in other groups some sides qualified with six or seven points,” Benitez told Spanish station Cadena Ser.
“We are sad, but at the same time proud of what we did. Gonzalo Higuain was sad, as were all the players. It’s normal to shed tears because the feeling of being knocked out in that situation is a bitter pill to swallow.
“We would’ve qualified if we had scored a third goal against Arsenal, or if Borussia had scored one less in Marseille.
“It is horrible to go out with 12 points, but this is football. The result will help give the players more experience for a project that must grow. We have only just begun and are not expected to win everything this year.”
The 2-0 victory over Arsenal would’ve been enough had Borussia not scored at the 87th minute in France. News filtered through and silenced the San Paolo.
“The last few minutes were difficult,” continued the Coach. “We couldn’t charge forward on the attack, because we couldn’t risk Arsenal scoring on the counter-attack, but then the Germans scored their goal. It’s a shame, as had our second goal come earlier then it would’ve changed everything.
“I told the team I was proud of their journey and it wasn’t easy considering there were so many new buys, but the future looks positive. I hope to give much joy to these fans.”