Monday February 24 2020
Gattuso: 'Napoli must stand up to Barca'

Gennaro Gattuso hopes to see a fearless Napoli against Barcelona and has admitted that it’s “useless” to man-mark Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi.

The Partenopei coach is preparing for his first Champions League match as a coach and he will face one of the greatest teams in the tournament since the birth of the new format in the competition.

But he wants to see a different Napoli at the San Paolo tomorrow, not the usual one that has struggled to get the results at home in Serie A.

“We are playing against a great squad,” he said at a press conference. “I thank the team and [Carlo] Ancelotti, I haven’t done anything. The emotions are there, but then they pass.

“Tomorrow I want a Napoli that aren’t afraid. At the San Paolo, except against Juventus, we haven’t played great. Tomorrow I want a team that knows how to suffer.

“After [coach Quque] Setien arrived, Barcelona are doing what they had been doing for years. With [Ernesto] Valverde, they won the ball back after 10 seconds, but with Setien it only takes six.

“We need to play a great game in both phases tomorrow, they are coming to assault us. We risk a lot tomorrow.”

Gattuso revealed that he has been impressed by his captain Lorenzo Insigne, but also admitted that the 28-year-old could improve as a leader.

“Insigne has an engine and runs 12 kilometres every game. He doesn’t have the body for that, but he compensates and is very intelligent tactically,” he added. “He needs to improve. The captain needs to be consistent in what he does, he need to improve as a captain. He doesn’t have to talk nonstop but talk little and give his soul. He has surprised me, he’s very intelligent on the pitch, learn very quickly.”

The former Milan coach said they have to prepare to “stand up” against the Blaugrana to have a chance on Tuesday.

“You need to stand up to Barcelona, you can’t be worried. I want to see a lively team that plays with joy until the end.

“I read that we have to man mark Messi, but it’s not only him. Lorenzo has said that he’s a great player, he’s not only great at a footballing level. He is the greatest for how he has lived his career. He’s an example for the kids to follow, never says anything inappropriate.

“He does stuff that you only see on the Playstation, things you can’t even imagine. He’s been the best ever for years now.”

Gattuso said that Messi reminded him of what he lost out on by never getting to watch Diego Maradona play.

“Diego is the God of football, I’m not just saying that today,” he said. “I never saw him closely, but I know the champions he was. In these moments, I see Messi do stuff that Maradona did. It makes me sad that I lost out on something that beautiful.”

The former midfielder didn’t want to give away any of his tactics during the press conference and said that he is working har to keep the group motivated for the challenges they face this spring.

“You will see tomorrow. I keep the team in order through our daily activities, the priorities and the rules, with respect,” Gattuso said. “To manage 25 players and 40 other people that are here every day, that’s where the secret lies.

“You need to find a different word for all of them and tell them the truth. You have to tell them some ugly stuff. Today, I will have to tell someone that they will start on the bench, that’s not nice.

“The team are working hard; I arrive before them and I leave four or five hours later. There’s hard work behind this team. The player today has evolved a lot.”

The former Milan star revealed that he had previously experienced some tough nights against Barca and claimed they “mentally destroyed” the Italian players.

“As a player against Barcelona, we looked them in the face and said that we play a different sport,” he added. “We didn’t touch the ball and they never let you get hold of it.

“For four days you felt like you were on a different planet. That’s the feeling I had as player against Barcelona. They destroyed you mentally.

“You can’t stop Messi, but in these moments my players have to try. We are playing against Barcelona, not only Messi. It doesn’t make sense to have a player man mark Messi. We will try some things today and then we’ll see.”

But the 42-year-old believes that his players can get a great result against the Spanish champions.

“I always have faith in my team,” he added. “I have underestimated that there was something that wasn’t going well. The goals conceded.

“I have already said it. We weren’t a team defensively, we played without smelling the danger. The team have improved a lot on this aspect. We are all working together. I hear the journalist say something that we never hit the target at Brescia. The problems against the lesser teams have always been there.

“It doesn’t look like we are professional, I here they are talking about that. We’re not worried about if people like it or not. We are thinking about the table and the most important things.

“If Napoli can win the Champions League? Never say never…”