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Garcia ‘not scared’ of replacing Napoli’s title-winner Spalletti

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis (left) and Rudi Garcia shake hands after the latter's unveiling as Napoli coach. Photo: ANSA/AFP

Rudi Garcia said Monday that he is not worried about stepping in to take over at Napoli just weeks after they won their first Serie A title since the days of Diego Maradona.

Frenchman Garcia has a big job on his hands in replacing Luciano Spalletti who left earlier this month after ending Napoli’s 33-year wait for the Scudetto.

“I’m not scared of anything. The title should give belief to the players but when the new season begins we’re starting again from zero. The players have to kind of forget about what they’ve accomplished before,” Garcia told reporters at his official unveiling. 

“We have a big squad which will help us win matches… and the president is ambitious. That means I’ll have a good team and we can entertain the fans.”

Garcia is familiar with Italian football thanks to his time with Roma, whom he guided to Champions League football in 2014 and 2015 before being sacked the following season.

His arrival at Napoli is a sort of turnaround with Spalletti, who replaced Garcia at Roma in January 2016, and a chance to rebuild his reputation following a fallow period in his coaching career.

Garcia, who won the Ligue 1 with Lille in 2011, was sacked by Al Nassr in April not long after the Saudi Arabian club signed Cristiano Ronaldo in a deal worth tens of millions of dollars.

He was previously a losing Europa League finalist with Marseille in 2018 and took Lyon to the semi-finals of the Champions League two years later.

“When I first got here and I saw all the banners and flags I realised that the city is very proud of its team, and I hope that continues to be the case,” said Garcia.

“When I begin a competition I aim to win it. Obviously the bar is very high — there are clubs with huge amounts of money and the best coach who waited 15 years to win the Champions League.

“But I think Napoli is a team which should be in the Champions League every year.”

The 59-year-old arrives at Napoli with the club in a state of uncertainty, with reports of a rift between sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli and owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Giuntoli has been the key to Napoli building strong teams while more or less balancing the books over the past eight years, but has an agreement with Juventus despite having one more year left on his contract.

Meanwhile some of those players brought in by Giuntoli could leave, with star defender Kim Min-jae likely set for a transfer to Bayern Munich.

Victor Osimhen also has a host of potential suitors after scoring 31 club goals last season, while key midfielder Piotr Zielinski could join former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri at Lazio.

De Laurentiis said on Monday that he wants Osimhen to stay and that he will only look at huge offers — reportedly well over 100 million euros ($109 million) — for the Nigeria striker.

The film mogul also said that before winning the league title Napoli had already reached a basic agreement with Osimhen to extend his contract by two years to 2027, a deal which is yet to be made official.

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