"First and foremost, it’s an honour to be here with you in Naples. I’d like to thank the fans for the welcome they’ve given me. When I saw the city draped in Napoli banners and flags the extent of the pride the fans here have for their club really hit me. I hope that this continues moving forward.” These were among Rudi Garcia’s first words as he was unveiled as Napoli coach at the Salone delle Feste del Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte. The new boss went on to outline his ideas and reveal his ambitions for next season.
What will the framework and foundations of your Napoli project be?
“Me and the president are in perfect synchronicity when it comes to our ambitions. We’ve set the bar really high for the Champions League – we dream of winning it. However our overall ambition is to follow on from Napoli’s first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona days 33 years ago with more trophy success.
“We want to be dining at the high table of European football. Napoli should always be in the Champions League and fighting to win it. This is what a club of our size should aspire to achieve.”
Isn’t it daunting to be following in the footsteps of Luciano Spalletti?
“I fear nothing, except any health issues I may go on to face. I’m just focused on the squad of players I’ve got at my disposal, because after such an important milestone last season we’re starting from scratch, level with the rest of the teams. On one hand the players need to forget what they achieved but on the other they should use the experience they accumulated to give them conviction and belief.”
What did you especially enjoy about the 2022/23 version of Napoli?
“Last season Napoli were both fantastic in attack but also defended as a unit. The president here is ambitious and I’m convinced that he’ll supply me with the requisite tools to keep on winning. My teams have always been attack-minded but we’ve always been solid at the back as well.”
You’re back in Italy after seven years away. What’s new with this Rudi Garcia?
"I’ve amassed experience. It’s a real pleasure to be back in Italy, I can’t wait to visit the city and get down to work. I want to give the best account of myself, I know that I’m capable of this and I won’t let anyone down in this city.”
Is this the biggest challenge of your career?
“Any coach who takes charge of Napoli – especially on the back of last season – is aware that they’ve got both a tough and thrilling task on their hands. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here but I’ll bring my personal touch to proceedings, while being mindful of the players I’ve got at my disposal.
“In terms of a formation, I adapt to the players in the squad. 4-3-3 has worked really well for Napoli, and it’s a system I’ve used a lot myself, however as a coach you’ve got to know when to switch things up as well. I don’t like teams who just have a plan ‘A’ and aren’t capable of adapting to the shifting sands of the game. I want my players to show tactical initiative and be smart enough to surprise our opponents.”
What are the keys to hitting the ground running next campaign?
“We need to show great mental resolve, because when a team wins trophies it can run the risk of taking their collective foot off the gas. I’ll be sure to avoid the players resting on their laurels. There are youngsters here capable of even greater things. We’ve got a competitive squad and my aim is to make my players even better and more all-round individuals.”
You’ll be coaching Frank Anguissa again, with whom you worked when he was a youngster:
"I handed Frank his debut while I was in charge of Marseille. I know the lad well and I’m delighted to be working with him again. He’s really kicked on in recent years and shown himself to be a vital cog in Napoli’s wheel. I’ll be even more demanding with him because I know what he’s capable of.”
What were your impressions of your first meeting with Aurelio De Laurentiis?
“I immediately bought into his footballing ambitions. I was keen to see whether the president was just as ambitious as before the Serie A triumph. When I saw that we were singing from the same hymn sheet the rest flowed seamlessly.
“Napoli’s trademark is bringing in unpolished diamonds. We’ll keep up this tradition and seek out new talents to boost our already fantastic squad.”
Spalletti leaving and you coming in feels like fate:
"It’s our destiny. I was replaced by Spalletti at Roma and now I'm replacing him at Napoli. I won’t be making many changes if our team is more or less the same as last season. Our aim is to succeed in Europe and keep up our standards domestically.
“One of Napoli’s virtues I greatly admire is the fact that the players run their socks off. I want to see the same commitment and the ambition to develop as a team. The team is capable of not only improving in terms of footballing ability, but also in terms of mental resolve and togetherness. Team spirit is what makes players and coaches able to scale mountains.”
Do you have a motto for your team ahead of embarking on your time at Napoli?
“I’ve got certain values I’d like to convey to the players. It’s about humility and hard work – you can’t get anywhere without them. Talent helps but what counts is togetherness, the feeling of belonging to this club.
“There’s a lot of limelight given to star players, and I understand that this is part of football, but often these players only run when they’ve got the ball. I want my players to put in the hard yards with and especially without the ball.”
Do you have a message for the fans?
"I already know all about the club's stadium and the Napoli fans. I experienced it as Roma coach and it’s a wonderful environment. Now that I’m one of them I’d like to feel that passion myself and drink in the fantastic atmosphere in the city. I’ll give my all for the fans and we’ll do our best to entertain them."
Does the 2022/23 Scudetto triumph serve as a springboard or is it added pressure?
“It provides us with great fuel and drive. It’ll be great to showcase our title-winning team throughout the country. My job and that of my staff is to hammer home the point to the players that we need to keep up the standards of this Scudetto-winning side.”