Marek Hamsik interview
The Napoli midfielder discusses mohawks, snubbing Juventus and breaking El Diego’s record
You scored a career best 15 goals from midfield last season – was there more responsibility on you after Gonzalo Higuain left and €35 million replacement Arek Milik suffered a bad injury? It was a really special season for me in terms of goals but it was more down to our high pressing and offensive style of play – no other Serie A club scored more than us. After Milik got injured, Dries Mertens moved upfront and scored 28 goals in the league, so we scored more without Higuain.
Napoli posted a record points total, but so did Roma and you came third. Was that annoying? Finishing third was hard to swallow considering we got 86 points – in other leagues it could have been enough to clinch the title. But we are on the right track, we made good progress in Maurizio Sarri’s second season as coach and hopefully his third season will be his most successful yet! [Smiles]
You joined Napoli when they had just reached Serie A, and have helped them become regular challengers at the top. Is the title the next step? It’s true, we’ve come a long way already – 11 years ago Napoli were down in the third tier, but for the last eight years we’ve always had European nights at our stadium. Now we ‘only’ need to win more trophies, and I feel the right time for that is now.
You’ve scored 113 goals for Napoli, only two short of Diego Maradona’s club record. What would it mean to beat the legendary forward? Although who knows how he’ll react to that... Of course, it would be a great honour to break his record. I hope this season I’ll wrap it up and hopefully as soon as possible. I don’t think Diego would be angry with me, not at all! [Smiles] I’ve had the privilege to meet him, but only for a very
“WINNING ONE SCUDETTO WITH NAPOLI WOULD COUNT FOR 10 SCUDETTI WITH JUVENTUS IT WOULD BE PHENOMENAL”
short time because a lot of people were around. You know, he can’t really move freely around Naples because of his immense, God-like popularity. I’m looking forward to meeting him in private some day.
Pavel Nedved recently said he tried to persuade you to join Juventus two years ago. Were you tempted? Pavel called me three or four times and he’s a childhood hero of mine, but the situation was very difficult as the interest came from Juventus – our big rival. I had a contract with Napoli and I wasn’t too convinced about this step. I’m happy to stay – I’ve already created something here and I would love to continue that.
When you saw how badly Napoli fans reacted to Higuain joining the Old Lady, were you more convinced that you were right to stay put? Just to imagine making that switch would be a pretty crazy idea, now that I think about Gonzalo’s move! But it’s up to everybody which club they choose – I don’t think players should be criticised for their moves.
Juventus have won more trophies, but does your relationship with the Napoli fans mean more than that? Winning just one Scudetto with Napoli would count for 10 Scudetti with Juve. If we achieved that it’d be something phenomenal – not only for myself but also for the Napoli fans. I experienced the celebrations after we had won the Coppa Italia after more than 20 years [in 2011-12] and that was incredible.
Your hairstyle is renowned – what is going on with that mohawk? I have straight and rigid hair – I can hardly comb it on the sides, so at the beginning it was for practical reasons. It’s become a a trademark since my arrival at Napoli in 2007. It wasn’t so outlandish at the beginning because I used to have some hair at the sides, but now the contrast is more visible! However, I won’t change my hairstyle until my playing days are finally over.
Finally, it’s England vs Slovakia at Wembley in early September – are you still aiming to catch England in your World Cup qualifying group? I don’t want to be too pessimistic, but I think first place will go to England – our main focus must be second place. Although we got a 0-0 draw against them at Euro 2016 and only lost in the last seconds in Trnava last year...