Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Luciano Spalletti said Wednesday that the late Diego Maradona would support Napoli in their Europa League decider with Barcelona, a meeting of two of the Argentine legend’s former clubs.
Napoli are level at 1-1 with Barca ahead of Thursday’s play-off second leg at the Naples stadium named after their deceased hero, who led them to their only two Serie A titles and the 1989 UEFA Cup.
“I’ve read a lot of things about Maradona… when it came time to decide Maradona never had a foot on different sides, he always took a position,” Spalletti told reporters.
“I’m sure that tomorrow, given the quality that the Catalan team has, he’d be on our side.
“We don’t have a player of his quality but together we can become a team worthy of Maradona.”
Spalletti said that current Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne will return from a muscle injury which kept him out of Monday’s 1-1 draw at Cagliari, against Barca, while Matteo Politano is also available after recovering from a calf problem but could start on the bench.
“Insigne will start tomorrow, he has the personality and quality to a make a difference,” he said.
Maradona, who died in November 2020, is still a God-like figure in Naples, some 30 years after he fled in disgrace following a failed drugs test and a host of other scandals.
He signed for Napoli from Barcelona in 1984, the Italian team breaking the world transfer record to take him away from the Catalan giants to what was then considered the best, toughest league in the world.
His impact was such that Napoli’s number 10 jersey was retired, while murals of him dot Naples.
On Wednesday, Barcelona posted a mocked-up image on their social media channels of Pique delivering a number 10 Barca jersey to the most famous mural of all, in Naples’ historic Spanish quarter.
Maradona had a rocky time at Barca, frequently rowing with club hierarchy, and his final game came just two injury-hit years after arriving from Boca Juniors, in a Copa del Rey final more famous for Maradona’s role in a mass brawl than for Barca’s 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao.
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