Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis said on Tuesday he would not sign any more African players unless they agreed to not take part in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly – now at Premier League side Chelsea – and Cameroon midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa missed several Napoli games while on international duty at this year’s AFCON, which took place between January and February.
“Or they sign a waiver giving up their right to participate to the Africa Cup of Nations tournaments or between AFCON and the championships in South America … I never have them [Napoli players] available,” he said in a Wall Street Italia talk show.
Koulibaly responded to De Laurentiis’ comments in his first news conference as a Chelsea player and expressed his disappointment.
“You have to have respect for the national team, because you cannot speak about African national team like this,” Koulibaly said.
“As captain of Senegal I think it’s not a good way to speak about an African national team. But I respect what it is. If he thinks the team can play without African players, it’s up to him. Not everybody has the same idea as him in the club.”
De Laurentiis also criticised the fact that clubs were agreeing to more and more games, suggesting a European tournament with the top clubs from the strongest five countries instead of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.
“The world of football cannot self-manage because we do the puppet show for others … if we could play 100 games, it would be a happy ending for everyone and we [clubs] like cretins agree to that.”
The Italian film producer also said he did not support the breakaway European Super League which folded less than 48 hours after it was announced last year as it was an elite club.
“You cannot create a super club of privileged members who invite others [to the league]. You need to democratically keep the door open for everyone,” he said.
De Laurentiis added he was tired of offers from investment funds for the club, adding that he was offered €900 million around four to five years ago by American investors.
“You [bidders] did not understand a thing [about me]. I am a pure entrepreneur who enjoys doing business … let me play,” he said.
“I want to be the 12th player on the pitch. Actually the 12th player is the fan, I can be the 13th or even the 14th, as 14 is my favourite number.”