Maurizio Sarri insists Gonzalo Higuain “is just an opponent” for Napoli and tells everyone “winning here is different” to success at Juventus.
Naturally, the first question in the Press conference was about Higuain’s return to the Stadio San Paolo after forcing through a €90m move to Juventus.
“I am honestly not interested in what the atmosphere will be like. I care for Higuain and owe him a lot, but tomorrow he is just an opponent for me,” noted Sarri.
“I never said that we’d make Higuain have a horrible day at the San Paolo, we just want to make life very difficult for Juventus.
“Will I hug Higuain again? I don’t think about these things before a game, I am too focused on the match. In the reverse fixture I only noticed he was there when he was a metre away.
“He knows my opinion of him and I have nothing more to prove. He’s an opponent like all the others, except maybe a bit better.”
This week Sarri beat Max Allegri to the Panchina d’Oro (Golden Bench) award as Serie A Coach of the Year.
“I like Allegri, there’s no particular interest in beating him. I want a great performance and hopefully a victory. Wins on the field are always worth more than an award.
“At this point in my life, nothing can really change it, but I would enjoy winning silverware. I tell my players they can go anywhere, but winning something here at Napoli is just different.
“I told Higuain that too, it’s something that gives a different sense of satisfaction, but you can’t go into people’s lives and dictate things to them. There are some aspects it’s best not to judge on.”
Due to a quirk of fate, Juventus will be back against Napoli at the San Paolo on Wednesday night for the Coppa Italia semi-final, having won the first leg 3-1.
“We have to focus exclusively on tomorrow’s game and only consider the Coppa Italia afterwards. There’s no such thing as a perfect game. At times we are extraordinary and in other moments we make banal errors. To beat Juventus, we need to be more consistent, as in these games every error can be decisive.
“It’s about finding the balance between determination and sharpness within that. It goes beyond the tactical aspect.”
Sarri was asked about the various Napoli complaints about refereeing decisions around Juventus, but dodged the question.
“If we look at the individual incidents, then we could well have been closer to the top, but overall Juventus have been on a different level for the last few years. You might think of a single incident, but you’ve also got to take everything else that has happened into account.
“The pressure is on Juventus, who are top of the table and have been there for several years, because they are the strongest team. If we want to talk about positive pressure, then I want my players to feel how much the fans and the city care about this game.”