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Maurizio Sarri responds to De Laurentiis’ accusations as Napoli drama plays out in public

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“My conscience is clear”, says the Chelsea-linked manager.

AC Milan v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis doesn’t do subtle. If he thinks it, he says it. And the more inflammatory the better, as he’s forcing his manager to fight fire with fire. The result: a media orgy of coverage.

If you’re just tuning in, let’s catch you up on the drama so far. Last Sunday Napoli lost 3-0 to Fiorentina and essentially scuppered their chances at winning the Italian Serie A title (which was confirmed by today’s 2-2 draw with Torino.) In the meantime, the rumor mill was running white hot with talk of Chelsea and Sarri representatives (maybe) meeting in London and (maybe) discussing a future for him in Antonio Conte’s old office.

With the defeat and the rumors of losing his coach, De Laurentiis apparently reached his boiling point and off he went to the media, attacking the man whom he still pays to run his team. Television reported that he was resigned to losing Sarri. Then he went on the record as saying Sarri hadn’t won any cups for Napoli and that his lack of rotation was to blame.

Right after that came the rumor that Sarri was threatening to resign, making a move to Chelsea either cheaper or messier, depending upon De Laurentiis’ response.

We’re betting on messier.

Finally, on Sunday Sarri gave his first public response to the extraordinary public attacks by his boss. For a man who has his own temper issues, he played it right down the middle, neither antagonizing nor apologizing.

“I have nothing to answer back. He is the man who gave me the opportunity to coach the club that I’ve always supported. I’m sorry if he’s not happy, but my conscience is clear.”

“I did everything I could to get as many points as possible in the competition that the Neapolitan people cared more about. What De Laurentiis said matters to a certain degree, it’s part of his character to be like that, so I don’t take it personally. I know that if I stay here, the President will continue to make these statements.”

Can’t argue with that. If you work at Napoli, you have to be willing to tolerate the president’s volcanic personality. In keeping with that attitude, here’s Sarri’s response to the report that he might resign.

“I cannot even comprehend that sort of talk. I never argued with him. The Neapolitans are wonderful and this was a game where we ran the risk of feeling sad. They sang and cheered at the end, so we can ask for nothing more.”

Clearly, Sarri is a lot better at giving benign interviews than De Laurentiis. But he did offer one tantalising tidbit, which was a companion to that report claiming he’d told his coaches to learn English. If you’re telling them to learn English, gaffer, how about your own self?

“I studied it many years ago.”

-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football Italia

Oh boy. That’s not exactly going to kill the rumors, is it?

There are two more weeks to go before we find out Antonio Conte’s fate. And Chelsea don’t linger when they give managers the sack. If he’s out, we’ll probably find out right after the FA Cup final. And then the wait begins for his replacement.

But it won’t be a quiet wait. The relentless, noisy grinding of the rumor mill will make sure of that.