Walter Mazzarri believes he contributed to Napoli’s runaway title run last season because of the progress he made coaching the southern club a decade ago.
Napoli’s Italian Cup triumph in 2012 under Mazzarri was its first trophy since the days when Diego Maradona played for the club. He also coached the team to a runner-up finish in Serie A a season later.
Now, Mazzarri is back in charge, having replaced the fired Rudi Garcia, and will make his debut at Atalanta on Saturday, with Napoli in fourth place, 10 points behind leader Inter Milan.
“We did a lot. All the progress that the club has made started with me,” Mazzarri said Friday in his first news conference since the coaching change was made at the start of the international break. “Then the club did a good job of always improving every year.”
So much so that Mazzarri — who has also managed Sampdoria, Inter Milan, Watford, Torino and Cagliari — already maintains that this is the best team he’s ever coached.
So can he get Napoli back into the title chase?
“What’s the point in making proclamations?” the 62-year-old Mazzarri said. “Let’s start winning games, then eventually we can look up. When you come in midseason like this in such a delicate moment you can’t declare goals. We’ll take stock at the end of the season.”
Garcia’s firing came after Napoli lost at home to Empoli — its third home loss this campaign after only two all of last season.
But Napoli striker Victor Osimhen could return against Atalanta from a right thigh injury that has kept him out for more than a month.
Still, it’s not an easy debut against an Atalanta team only one point behind Napoli.
“It’s one of the toughest matches,” Mazzarri said. “It’s not easy for anyone to face Atalanta.”
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