Rafa Benitez has refused direct comment on interest in Javier Mascherano, but admits Napoli need to strengthen to take that ‘difficult final step’.
The Vesuviani are set for a third place finish in Serie A this season, to the disappointment of supporters who felt a Scudetto fight was possible last summer.
“For the fans who criticise De Laurentiis I say to look at where Napoli were seven years ago and where they are now,” Benitez has considered in conversation with Piuenne’s Casa Napoli programme this week.
“The difficulty now is in taking the next step. We are at a high level, but we still face the most difficult step. Trying to stay at this level and going higher is not easy. We will try and this is important.
“We are trying to create a structure. A strong squad and a structure behind it will allow us to win.
“We know that we need players with different characteristics to those in the squad. Henrique and Ghoulam have given us greater balance in defence and even given us greater security in the air.
“Mascherano? He is a great player, but I do not like to talk about it now because he is still at Barcelona and has to try to win something with his club.
“I will tell you an anecdote of when Maradona came to see him at Liverpool. We stood talking in my office for half an hour. When we left the room, we found 10 Liverpool players, first of them Carragher, waiting for an autograph.”