AFCON 2023: Napoli Unwilling To Sign African Players

By Chigozie Anueyiagu, The Nigerian Voice Sports

AFCON takes dig from Serie A as its relevance is being questioned as its timing is being questioned. the recent edition of AFCON, which was won by Senegal, was staged from January to February earlier this year, meaning some of the best players in the world departed their clubs to represent their national teams. While this is a situation most managers simply cope with, Jurgen Klopp being one after witnessing both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah leave Liverpool at the start of this year, Napoli president has angered several fans after taking a hardline stance on this issue.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis opened up about his frustrations with the Africa Cup of Nations, stating that he will not sign another African player for the Serie A giants unless they agree on paper to skip the beloved tournament.

"I told them lads, don't talk to me about Africans anymore!" the 73-year-old angrily confessed, in an interview

"I love them, but either they sign something confirming they'll back out of playing the Africa Cup of Nations, or otherwise between that tournament, the World Cup qualifiers in South America, these players are never available!

"We are the idiots who pay salaries only to send them all over the world playing for others."

While De Laurentiis argued that he did not have an issue with African players themselves, this did not spare him from getting criticism from Kalidou Koulibaly, his former center-back.

The new Chelsea general, who captained the Lions of Teranga to their recent AFCON glory, slammed the Napoli executive for his lack of respect for African nation.

"It's up to him. For me, the most important thing is to respect everybody. I always respect everybody. When I played there I was playing also for Senegal, and I won AFCON when I was playing at Napoli," the 31-year old stated

"It's true it was a difficult moment for them when we went to AFCON, but we won it and I'm really happy today. We have to respect the national teams also. You cannot speak about an African national team like this, I think.

"You have to have respect as you have for the other national teams. As captain of Senegal, I think it's not a good way to speak about an African national team, but I respect what he thinks. If he thinks the team can play without African players, it's up to him.

"But I think not everyone in the club has the same idea as him. I know everybody over there, I know the supporters and the supporters don't think like this.

"It's up to him, but it's not an idea of the society of the city, because the city is really respectful. This is what he thinks, not what the city is thinking or the society is thinking.