Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso knows knows only too well how difficult it will be for his side to contain Argentine star, talisman and Barcelona captain, Lionel Messi. Gattuso joked that he can only mark Lionel Messi in his dreams or on PlayStation as he looked ahead to the upcoming Champions League showdown with Barca.
Napoli ended their 2019-20 coronavirus-hit Serie-A season on Saturday with 3-1 home victory against Lazio with the trio of Fabian Luiz, Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Politano fuelling the win. Their attention now turns to the second leg of Napoli’s Champions League last-16 tie against La Liga giants Barcelona, scheduled for August 8 at Camp Nou following February’s 1-1 draw.
When asked about the threat six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi will pose to his team post-match, the Napoli boss and former AC Milan midfielder Gattuso told jokingly reporters:
“I can mark Messi only in my dreams.
“Or if I set Napoli vs Barcelona on my son’s PlayStation, trying to catch him there when I played for Milan with 10-15 kilograms less than today.”
On Napoli’s planned approach against Barca after seeing off fourth-placed Lazio in Serie A, Gattuso said:
“I think they are very different teams [Lazio and Barcelona] with two different styles.
“Lazio mixes technical and physical skills. Barcelona are all about quality. I think it will be a different game. We don’t have to think about score or not.
“We must play as a team, being confident that we can have our chances. We know that it will be an enterprise. Our mind must be free in order to express our qualities.”
Napoli will be anxious regarding Insigne’s fitness for the Barca trip after the star captain limped off the pitch against Lazio with six minutes remaining due to a thigh problem.
“Insigne spoke to the doctor, we’ll evaluate it over the next 48 hours when we have the test results,” Gattuso added. “Hopefully, it’s not as serious as we first thought.”
Napoli’s clash with Lazio had been incendiary at times with Gattuso himself admitting he deserved to be sent off for his own behaviour.
“Italian football has changed in its mentality for a few years now, nobody gives you anything for free,” Gattuso told Sky Sport Italia.
“I deserved to be sent off today, I freely admit I went too far, a few too many words were exchanged. Unfortunately, both parties ended up taking it up a few notches and the game suffered.
“I haven’t spoken to Simone Inzaghi yet, as it’s better for me to wait until I’ve calmed down, otherwise I tend to do even more damage.”
Madre mia! You just can’t help but love the big-hearted Italian who doesn’t hide his bluntness or mince his words. And gives credit where it is due.