Thursday March 26 2020
Albiol: 'Napoli in my heart'

Villarreal defender Raul Albiol has revealed that Napoli was a “fundamental experience” in his career and claimed the club “remains in my heart”.

The 34-year-old appeared 236 times during his six seasons at the Azzurri and has admitted that he misses the San Paolo.

He moved back to his native Spain ahead of the current season and has played 26 games in La Liga for Villarreal before the season was suspended.

But the centre-half has been following the progress at Napoli under new coach Gennaro Gattuso, as the Partenopei had climbed to sixth in Serie A and held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League.

“It’s too bad, they had to stop in their best moment. They even had the chance to get past Barcelona in the Champions League.

“The team, the city and the people remain in my heart, it was a fundamental experience of my life.”

His former partner Kalidou Koulibaly has been through a difficult season at the San Paolo and was struggling to recover from a thigh strain but was set for a return before the season was suspended.

Albiol believes the Senegal international will bounce back and return to his previous best.

“After three monstrous seasons, in addition to the injury, Kalidou was physically and mentally tired,” he added. “That’s all, it can happen. He will be back in shape soon.”

Dries Merten’s contract with Napoli expires this summer and Albiol has revealed that he hopes to see the Belgium international continue at the Azzurri.

“Dries is a phenomenon, he is really special,” Albiol told Corriere dello Sport. “He’s top, we all want to see him continue at Napoli, me included.

“But it’s obvious that the choice is up to him. It will be a lifestyle choice.”

Jose Callejon is another player being linked with a move away from the club and will be a free agent this summer unless he extends his current deal expiring on June 30.

Albiol has claimed the Spanish winger is also a top player but understands that he might contemplate a future elsewhere.

 “Absolutely [a top player],” he said. “But Jose is no longer 22 years old and must decide for his family. It’s impossible to talk about the transfer market now.”

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