Monday March 6 2017
‘Higuain cost Napoli Champions League’

President Aurelio De Laurentiis notes Napoli missed out on the Champions League as Gonzalo Higuain “didn’t score the decisive penalty”.

The Argentine striker scored 91 goals in 146 games for the Partenopei, including 36 Serie A goals in 35 games last season.

However, ‘Pipita’ then left for Juventus when the Bianconeri activated his €90m release clause, causing fury in Naples.

“He had a release clause, so if someone is crazy enough or interested enough to pay then I won’t say anything,” De Laurentiis told El Pais.

“But there are players who are serious and are treated as part of the family, and I feel like one of their parents.

“Those who aren’t like that it’s better to sell after three years.

“He [Higuain] had one of his best seasons, but we also lost a second [consecutive] qualification to the Champions League because he didn’t score the decisive penalty.

“We didn’t hang out personally very much, I didn’t go for dinner with him. I knew his family very well though, and I must say they’re exemplary, with an extraordinary father.

“Then there was his brother [Nicolas] who told me ‘Higuain doesn’t like playing with [Jose] Callejon, buy other players’.

“I’d never sell him because I love Callejon. So I increased his contract by four years. I’m not a man who can be blackmailed.”

De Laurentiis has been criticised for his insistence on controlling image rights of new signings, and says Higuain was a case in point.

“I wanted to bring in the rules from film, I wanted film contracts. I’m the only one in the world who has the image rights for all my players.

“When I bought Higuain it was very complicated, because Real Madrid only held 50 per cent of the rights.

“Players have no legal training and they don’t understand contracts. Why bother keeping their image rights? They don’t know what to do with them.

“How can we allow sport companies to negotiate them when they don’t know what they’re doing? Isn’t it absurd?

“The lads have a contract with the club, so you should negotiate directly with the club.

“I understand that 99 per cent of clubs aren’t structured like a business, they’re managed by employees, who have a very different culture. I'd like to buy a Spanish club. I believe 100 per cent in a club run like a business.

“Sometimes the media create heroes for a club, but those heroes aren’t always able to cope with the pressure. They’re young lads and sometimes they can be damaged.

One man who is definitely a hero for Napoli is Diego Maradona, is it hard to be President under his shadow?

“No, it’s an honour,” De Laurentiis insisted.

“It’s like when I made my first film with Alberto Sordi.

“Napoli always lost, even when Diego Maradona was there. The shadow of Maradona is a privilege, but let’s be honest, Napoli haven’t won much in their history.

“They’ve had great players, but for the most part it’s Maradona. In my 12 years, Napoli is the only team which has been in Europe for seven years in a row.

“I’ve balanced the books and there’s a great squad. But because Maradona exists, it seems like I haven’t done anything!”

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