Aurelio De Laurentiis believes Napoli are better off with Arkadiusz Milik and Fernando Llorente over Mauro Icardi, who has it ‘easier’ at Paris Saint-Germain.
Napoli are expected to vie for the Scudetto with Juventus and Inter this season, but De Laurentiis revealed he tried to take Antonio Conte before Carlo Ancelotti.
“I can’t talk about the other teams because it’s too early to assess their strength,” he told Corriere dello Sport.
“Juventus and Inter are two great clubs, with very experienced people. They will be able to balance their qualities with their problems.
“I have an excellent relationship with Antonio. We hung out, swimming in the Maldivian sea, where I also met his extraordinary family.
“Long before Ancelotti, when Conte was in London, I bombarded him with questions, asking him to come to Naples.
“He replied that the contract he had with Chelsea prevented him from talking to third parties. I think it was true because he took a year off before working in Italy again.”
The Partenopei patron was then asked about the Icardi-Llorente-Milik conundrum.
“I offered Inter €60m plus bonuses, for a total of €65m, while I proposed Wanda Nara a gross salary of around €12m for her husband.
“Icardi isn’t stupid and maybe he felt that to re-launch himself on a European level, he had to go to a team like the PSG, where he could stand out more easily than at Napoli.
“For him, it was the best choice. Llorente wasn’t my idea, but rather Ancelotti’s. No-one would’ve turned their back to a top player like Icardi, but from the first moment Ancelotti opted for Llorente because he argued that in attack, we were already heavily stocked and only needed a champion to play in the last 30 minutes of games that required unlocking.
“In short, he could’ve coexisted with our Milik. We mustn’t forget that Milik, after two seasons on the treatment table due to some bad injuries, in his first season of real activity, scored 20 goals without penalties.
“That means if we had made him take penalties, he might have become top scorer in Serie A.
“Therefore, I don’t understand this free-for-all among fans when they could just appreciate the gems they already have.”
The contracts of long-serving pair Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon expire at the end of the season…
“I’m in love with Mertens and Callejon. After talking to Dries, I realised he was a great connoisseur of football.
“I told him: ‘When you get tired of playing, why don’t you work with me?’ It’s a pleasure to listen to him talk and he gives confidence to those who listen to him.
“I consider Callejon to be very loyal, one of the family: he’s become Neapolitan, his children grew up in Naples and they’ll certainly have a Neapolitan accent.
“I hope he and Mertens are willing to extend their contracts. I’m at their disposal. Always without doing something crazy…”