Marek Ham­sik interview

The Napoli mid­fielder dis­cusses mo­hawks, snub­bing Ju­ven­tus and break­ing El Diego’s record

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS -

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...

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