Jonathan De Guzman launched an extraordinary attack on Napoli, accusing the chief medic of derailing his career and director Cristiano Giuntoli of punching him.
Now at Eintracht Frankfurt, the 31-year-old was owned by Napoli from 2014 to 2017, but spent much of that on loan to Carpi and Chievo.
He ultimately made only 36 competitive appearances for the Partenopei, scoring seven goals and providing three assists.
In a remarkable interview with Dutch site De Voltkskrant, De Guzman reveals a series of shocking incidents during his Napoli tenure.
In March 2015, he started to feel a strange bulge in his stomach that felt painful, so went to chief medic Alfonso De Nicola – who is still at the club.
“I was put on a diet, had my carbohydrates cut and told to take a rest, but the pain kept coming back. Rafa Benitez told me to go see another doctor, but that was not allowed by the club, because De Nicola had the power.”
That summer, Benitez moved on to Real Madrid, while Coach Maurizio Sarri and director of sport Giuntoli arrived.
Despite his struggles, De Nicola passed him fit to train and a harsh judgment was inevitable.
“I am a player who can run 10km in a game, but if I can only manage 6km and doing that at half-strength, then of course a Coach isn’t going to want me in the team.
“Napoli didn’t believe I was hurt. I could walk and run, but I couldn’t turn or shoot properly. They thought I’d made it up, that it was all in my head. That was said to me so often that I started to doubt the signals my own body was sending to me. It was sick.”
As the transfer window was coming to a close in August, De Guzman was sent to a hotel in Milan where he could negotiate for a move away.
Talks were held with Sunderland and Bournemouth, but “I wanted to be fit first. Giuntoli was really angry and his assistant told me that if I didn’t sign for someone else, my career would be dead in Naples. I would not be allowed to play anymore.
“This went on for the whole day until Giuntoli had to leave to make other deals.”
After flying to the Netherlands to consult with his agents, De Guzman decided he wanted to regain his fitness at Napoli before moving on.
However, when arriving back at the training ground in Naples on September 1, after the transfer window had shut, he met a furious Giuntoli.
“I was in the locker room and he called me over as a ‘piece of ****’ to go into the players’ lounge. He said I had promised to leave, but I did no such thing.
“He suddenly hit me in the face. Then I went crazy. We started fighting, chairs were knocked over. My teammate Camilo Zuniga dived in and pulled us apart. He told me to take my things and go home.
“As I was going, I passed by De Nicola. I said: ‘What the hell did you do? I’m not fit because of you!’ The next day, the fitness coach told me I could only jog around the training ground.
“I tried to call President Aurelio De Laurentiis, but there was no reply. Edoardo De Laurentiis, the son of the President who I had a decent rapport with the year before, came in and told me: ‘You’re not going anywhere, so you stay here and you’re dead to us.’ I thought I was now completely lost.
“The players didn’t help me. If they tried, the club would criticise them. I wanted to train by myself, but where could I go? Everyone knows the players in Naples.”
After four months of this and weeks of begging, De Guzman was allowed to see another Italian doctor, Americo Menghi, who diagnosed a sports hernia and suggested surgery – an option rejected by De Nicola.
The player and his agent eventually flew to Denmark for a consultation with specialist Per Holmich.
“It took 10 minutes! He needed just 10 minutes to figure out it was a sports hernia and needed an operation. But De Nicola again said no, that he didn’t believe in the surgical option and didn’t want to be the one who destroyed my career.”
Come January, after six months of inactivity, De Guzman was loaned out to bottom of the table Carpi and they finally allowed him to have the operation in Munich.
“The pain was gone quickly, but my body was so weak that I just lurched from one injury to the next. I returned to Napoli in 2016. Sarri said I could prove myself. He is a good Coach, he’s proving that now at Chelsea.
“Everything was top at Napoli, from the supporters to the facilities, all except for a few men. Football is a business and business is tough, I understand that, but this treatment was inhumane.”
After another dismal loan spell at Chievo, he was sold to Eintracht Frankfurt, having first rejected a big money move to Asia, and won the German Cup last season.
“Napoli was a dark chapter and I want to put it behind me with this interview. I love this game so much, otherwise I wouldn’t have run around an empty training ground for six months at the age of 28.
“There are football players who are completely broken. From the outside, you can’t see what’s going on. A player who doesn’t play is no longer of interest to anyone. The clubs have their way of communicating. Now it’s my turn.”
De Volkskrant point out they contacted Napoli for this story, but that the club refused to comment.
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