Monday February 24 2020
Insigne: 'Messi best in the world'

Lorenzo Insigne has warned Napoli that Lionel Messi is only the leader of many great champions of Barcelona and hopes to bring the fans some joy tomorrow.

The Blaugrana arrive for their first leg in the round of 16 in the Champions League and the captain has stressed that they will have to face the challenge as a team.

“We are living the moment together, the group and the coach, and with serenity,” Insigne said at a press conference. “We are playing against a great squad. We must prepare in the best possible way. It’s not only Messi but other great players and we will have to do our best to limit them and have a great performance.”

The Partenopei have never played against Barcelona and the 28-year-old is aware that it will be a completely different challenge from their everyday life in Serie A.

But Insigne points at some great results from the past in Europe and takes confidence from their performances against the reigning European champions Liverpool in the group stage.

“The challenge will be different from the League; in Serie A we need to play like we do in Europe,” he said. “Everyone can give you a hard time. In the League we have lost points against the smaller teams and then we won against Liverpool.

“Against Genk, we were convinced that we would win, but it didn’t happen. We need to have the right approach, if not, we will be in difficulty.

“If I close my eye, I think that we need a great game in attack and in defence, both legs. We need to be concentrated, especially in the return leg. It’s a fascinating tie, we will follow the guidelines from the coach. We need to have the right mentality. We hope to score goals but mostly not to concede.

The Argentine talisman Messi arrives at the San Paolo for the first time and he has already revealed that he is looking forward to entering the home of Diego Maradona. But Insigne doesn’t want to compare such a “sacred” player to the Barcelona hero.

“Messi is the best player in the world, I don’t compare him to Maradona,” he added. “Diego is everything. We don’t compare them, for us, Maradona is sacred. Leo is the best right now.”

Insigne will be the captain on the night Barcelona come to town and he knows the fans expect a lot of him on Tuesday.

“I feel responsible, I’m the captain. I have an important job both on and off the pitch. It’s thanks to the coach, who has given me faith. I always have him by my side. I’m from Napoli, I know how emotional these games are. With the help of the squad, we can do well.

“I hope to score, but even if [goalkeeper David] Ospina score tomorrow, it will be all the same. We just need the result. First, I think about helping in defence, then I hope to score.

“We don’t need to be afraid. We can do it tomorrow. We need to try, even if we are up against some great champions. We have played against Liverpool, where we won and drew. We can play a great game tomorrow and get a great result.

“I don’t sleep well, but I hope to arrive ready tomorrow. I ask the fans for help, it’s a delicate match. In these occasions, they are always helping us a lot. They will do the same tomorrow.

“We need to still watch the video clips of Barcelona. I watched their game against Eibar, they allowed some stuff. We need to take advantage of their mistakes.

“I have never been close to signing for Barcelona, I never had the opportunity. There’s nothing else to say.

“I read the same stuff that everybody else read, after four goals from Messi, I don’t think they have all these problems. We don’t need to think about them, but only about us. We need to think about doing well.”

Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti after the team had qualified for the knockout stages of the competition and Insigne has praised his new coach.

“The coach has always motivated us, from day one,” he said. “We have felt his trust. He has given us a few speeches that the whole squad have enjoyed. The coach is keeping us focused. The great champions also need to be concentrated; no game is easy.

“I hope he will be of great help every day going forward, we need to follow him. Together, we can achieve great things.

“Knowing my teammates and the atmosphere, it will be a great night. We know that it’s difficult, we need to think about Messi, Griezmann.

“As a team, we play great matches, as a team, we win. Insigne or [Dries] Mertens can’t solve it, we will enter the pitch as a team. The fans from Napoli are expecting a lot from me. I have always accepted the critique, it’s only fair that the fans criticise you when you fail. I’m calm, I have always come through these moments and I am still doing it. Tomorrow I hope to gift them the joy.

“We are in a particular situation in the League, we take one game at a time. From Wednesday, we will think about Torino and then Inter. If we already think about Inter and Europe, we will not be focused."