Walter Mazzarri has admitted to deliberately getting sent off against Villarreal to motivate his Napoli players into a reaction.
The Coach explained this decision when reflecting with Sky Sport Italia on Thursday on taking the Vesuviani into the Last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in their history.
A 2-0 win at El Madrigal saw the team progress in second place in Group A with goals in the final half hour from Gokhan Inler and Marek Hamsik.
“I’m glad to have given this joy to our exceptional fans,” exclaimed Mazzari. “It has been so long since I have experienced a moment like this and this achievement fills me with pride.
“Did I fear we wouldn’t succeed? Villarreal were charged and motivated, we were apprehensive and the boys felt it a great deal in the game.
“We talked at half-time, then I gave them my input on the field in my own way, to unlock them and them play for Napoli.”
This was in reference to when he was sent to the stands by the referee for taking his protests at Villarreal’s time-wasting too far. With the ball edging towards the technical area, Mazzarri moved across and pushed Nilmar off the ball as it rolled out of play.
“After saying that we had to play as we know, I tried to shake them up a bit with this very significant gesture.
“Villarreal were wasting time, playing for a draw and for us it meant we would be eliminated. So I thought that my action could stimulate the boys in the end.
“I have a great feeling for the fans and my players, in that moment - with a push on an opponent that was wasting time - my players, maybe even subconsciously, picked up on this.
“Was it a gesture akin to [Jose] Mourinho? He is a great Coach and does and gives everything for his team to achieve the victory, all Coaches try to during the week and during the game.
“I don’t deserve [to be banned for the next round] but if I am then [assistant Coach Nicolo] Frustalupi brings us luck because every time he remains on the bench we win.
“I did not celebrate the goals because I knew that until the final whistle, anything could have happened. I celebrated only at the end.”
Napoli are now in Friday December 16’s knockout draw, scheduled to take place 11am UK time.
“There are still two months until the second round of the Champions League. Let’s see what’s in store for the draw, we will aim to give any opponent a hard time.
“However, it was most important that we honoured the competition and progressed. Last year we had seven points in the Europa League, this year we achieved 11 in the Champions League.
“There is this improvement. The victories help our self-esteem to grow and the togetherness of the group.”
The 50-year-old also took time to explain his absence from the post-match mixed zone.
“When things are going so well it is fair that the players take the credit, they are the main instigators and I prefer to stay away from the scene.”
A consequence to the team’s efforts in Europe has been their League performance. Going into Week 15, the team are nine points and five places adrift of top-of-the-table Juventus.
“I hope for a revival in the League but the many commitments have led us to waste energy and drop points. At times it can be everything, both positive and negative.
“We have seen how very difficult opponents otherwise regarded as the weakest can be. In Italy there are so many good teams that when we have faced them have caused trouble.”