Luciano Spalletti had words of high praise for the work done by Maurizio Sarri at Napoli ahead of the former Azzurri coach's return to the Maradona on Friday with his Lazio side.

The boss however insisted he was more than pleased with his own team and urged them to stay focused on winning as many games as possible till the end of the season.

How much of Sarri's Napoli do you think is in the current team?

"It's true that there's a work ethic here that was partly introduced by previous coaches and footballers. I've noticed that Sarri and I have some things in common, like wearing a tracksuit and wanting boss the game. A lot has been said about ball possession recently but it's a factor that lets you choose which area of the pitch you want to play the game in. Then it depends on the tempo and intensity, but those are deeper issues.”

"Sarri was a bit like Masaniello: he led a footballing philosophy. When I had the chance I would always choose to watch Sarri's Napoli and enjoy the beauty of that team. This current Napoli side has sought its own identity and beauty. It doesn't matter if its better or worse. I'm not interested in comparisons.”

Do you sense that Napoli fans are more mature and waiting calmly for the end of the season?

"I think Napoli fans understand football and the dynamics of the game. It's essential that our supporters take to the pitch with us and keep getting behind us, not listen to those who want us to take our hands off the wheel. There are lots of dangerous bends and curves on our path between now and the end of the campaign.”

Victor Osimhen has lavished praise on you as a coach and as a man.

"It's easy for me to work with quality footballers who are willing to listen and work hard. Their virtue is greater than mine. My players have shown tremendous personal and football qualities. Obviously I thank them if they speak well of me but it's credit to their own ability.”

How do you and Sarri differ tactically?

"I don't like playing football in front of the defence. I've lost lots of games in my time but if I don't like a way of playing I can't convey it to my players. I like attacking football, the sort that people enjoy watching. The first thing I did when I joined Napoli was try to stoke up the love that Napoli fans feel for the team and for the style of football we play. And we've done that.

"Sarri may be more precise and orderly with his lines. We mix it up a bit more with players taking it in turns to get forward or drop back. I think we all like the football we play.

“Lazio move in sync as a single unit. Tomorrow we'll need to work hard to find openings in the solid ranks.”

Did you imagine you could win the title with Napoli?

"When you do this job, you always aspire to win things. But rather than success in itself, I'm happier creating emotions. I'm not the sort of coach who wants to win one year at all costs and then perhaps fail the following season. I like working with the club to attain shared goals.”

Do you think this Napoli side can open up a cycle of success?

“We certainly have solid foundations in place. We have a group of excellent, healthy players, including youngsters with many years ahead of them. That is thanks to the ability of the club and [Cristiano] Giuntoli in identifying talented young players while taking into account the club's needs and potential.

“I do think this could be the start of a successful spell for Napoli because besides the players who are playing regularly there are others who are featuring less at the moment with enormous potential.”

Considering some of the criticism you've received from fans of clubs you've coached in the past, do you feel an element of payback now that you're recognised as a football master?

“I don't coach for payback. I look at the present and try to make the players, fans and club happy. I do have some admirers, if you look at certain social-media pages, but football is a results business. I've always given my all, even if it means arguing sometimes, but never sought payback on anyone.

“There's one thing I'd like to stress to our fans: get behind us at all times and take to the pitch with us, spurring on the players. We have no intention of slowing down and you are vital for us.”

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