Benitez: I am too busy to discuss Napoli future

The Spaniard’s contract expires in May but the former Liverpool boss says he is only focusing on the crucial final three months of the season

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has once again refused to commit himself to the club beyond the end of the season.

The Spaniard signed a two-year deal when he was named Partenopei boss in May 2013, meaning he has just over three months remaining on his current contract with the Serie A side.

With Benitez having led Napoli to Coppa Italia glory last season and his team currently going well both domestically and in the Europa League, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis wants the 54-year-old to extend his stay at the San Paolo.

Benitez, though, says he is only focusing on a busy run of fixtures and has no intention of discussing a new deal at this point in the campaign.

“I have already said that the most important thing and what really counts is to do our best in the next three months we have to face,” the former Liverpool boss told Radio Kiss Kiss .

“I am busy and focused on continuing our campaign. We have many games in many competitions where we have set objectives to fulfill.

“There will be time to talk about my future. At the moment we are focused only on the Sassuolo clash and to give continuity to our positive run.”

Napoli will have to make do without top scorer Gonzalo Higuain at Sassuolo but Benitez is in no doubt he has sufficient strength in depth to cope with the Argentine striker’s unavailability.

“We have different options and I believe that is good for the team,” he added.

“Manolo Gabbiadini is doing a great job and Jose Callejon as well, as he has scored nine goals so far.  

“Duvan Zapata has always given a great help on the pitch. Marek Hamsik and Jonathan de Guzman have proven they can both make assists and score goals as well, while Dries Mertens is a talented palymaker. 

“We can say with no doubt that we have quality up front and we have a squad which provides us with many alternatives. 

“If that were considered a problem, I would call it a ‘good problem’ because having all of those options is always very positive for any coach.”

Napoli, who routed Trabzonspor 4-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday, sit third in Serie A, two points ahead of fourth-placed Lazio ahead of their game in hand at Sassuolo.

Higuain: Supercoppa success the turning point in Napoli's season

The Argentine scored a dramatic late winner against Inter but refused to accept any personal plaudits afterwards, insisiting the Partenopei’s resurgence has been a team effort

Gonzalo Higuain identified December’s Supercoppa Italiana success as the turning point of Napoli’s season, after firing his side into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night.

The Partenopei’s last-eight encounter with Inter at the San Paolo looked certain to go to extra time but, with just seconds remaining, their Argentine centre-forward lost Andrea Ranocchia on a throw-in before curling home a sublime winner.

Higuain refused to accept any praise for his last-gasp heroics, though, preferring instead to pay tribute to Rafael Benitez’s entire squad for building upon their penalty shootout success over Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana just before the winter break.

“I want to thank my team-mates and the fans who have supported us,” the striker told Rai Sport.

“The team has worked really well in this last period. We’re all going through a good moment right now and we must continue to take advantage of that. 

“We work well right until the end of every game and I’m sure that tonight’s win is just a consequence of this.

“I must say that we started to improve after the victory in the Supercoppa, as it gave us great confidence for the rest of the season. 

“But we’re not thinking too far ahead, only of Udinese this weekend.”

Napoli have lost just once since their Supercoppa success, coincidentally to Juve in Serie A, and will go into Sunday’s meeting with Udinese at the San Paolo just four points behind second-placed Roma in the standings.

Meanwhile, the reigning Coppa Italia champions will now face Lazio in the last four of this year’s competition.

Supercoppa will not satisfy Napoli hunger – Higuain

The striker scored twice and converted his penalty as Rafa Benitez’s men beat Juventus on spot kicks in a gripping final in Doha

Gonzalo Higuain believes Napoli can aim even higher in the second half of the season after claiming the Supercoppa Italiana with a penalty shootout win over Juventus.

Higuain scored twice to cancel out goals from compatriot Carlos Tevez as Monday’s clash between the Scudetto holders and Coppa Italia winners in Doha finished 2-2 after extra-time.

Napoli ultimately triumphed 6-5 on penalties after Simone Padoin missed in sudden death, and Higuain is confident his side can set their sights on more silverware in 2015 if they can find some consistent form in Serie A.

“We played a great game, I’m proud of the team. We faced a great team like Juve but today we did everything to win and more,” he told Rai Sport after the match. “I dedicate this to all our fans.

“We need to have more consistency in the league, but if we continue like this, we can have a great season. We’re aiming very high.”

Napoli, who are currently fourth in Serie A, resume their campaign against Cesena on January 6.

They trail league leaders Juventus by 12 points and are nine adrift of second-placed Roma with 16 games played. However, Rafa Benitez’s men are level on points with Lazio, who currently occupy the final Champions League qualification spot.

Bale & Neymar are hits, but Ozil & Cavani are misses – Goal readers' verdicts on 2013's biggest transfers

After more than 150,000 votes, the Real Madrid and Barcelona duo are labelled successes while the Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain stars have been deemed failures so far

Gareth Bale and Neymar have both impressed since moving to La Liga while Mesut Ozil and Edinson Cavani are yet to prove their worth, Goal readers say.

Following the publication of the 2013 Goal Transfer List, we asked readers to vote on whether the 10 biggest transfers of last year had proved successful or not, and the response was huge.

After his record-breaking transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, an impressive 85 per cent of you considered Bale, who scored in both los Blancos’ Copa del Rey and Champions League final triumphs earlier this year, a success at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Another player to head to the Spanish top-flight in 2013 was Neymar. The Brazilian was captured in what proved to be a controversial transfer, but there can be no doubting that he has been a hit at Barcelona having gained a 77% approval rating.

Mesut Ozil, who has struggled after a bright start to his career at Arsenal, had 69% of the overall votes cast on his move to north London to say he has not been a success, while Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani only fared marginally better with 62% declaring him a miss too.

However, the transfer that has been most heavily criticised by the Goal audience, is Falcao’s decision to switch Atletico Madrid for Monaco, which 81% declared a poor move.

Although he has now moved on to link up with Bale in Madrid, James Rodriguez’s swap of Porto for the principality club was regarded as a great decision, with 82% backing it.

Gonzalo Higuain’s exchange of los Blancos for Napoli gained a 64% hit rating, while Mario Gotze also scored highly after switching Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich, with 80% of readers claiming it prosperous.

Another PSG signing, Marquinhos, was declared a miss by 62% of you, while Marouane Fellaini’s move from Everton to Manchester United was lambasted with 72% of the votes labelling it a poor transfer.

Transfer List 2013: James, Higuain, Marquinhos, Fellaini & Gotze – Hit or Miss?

VOTE: In the first part of our look back at last year’s biggest deals, we assess the players ranked 10 to six and ask you to tell us whether their respective moves were a success

By Mark Doyle

From a footballing perspective, 2013 will perhaps be as well remembered for Gareth Bale becoming the first €100 million footballer as Bayern Munich’s historic treble success.

Real Madrid’s decision to break the transfer record to sign the Welsh winger from Tottenham made headlines the world over and his performances in the Spanish club’s famous white shirt continue to be scrutinised on a weekly basis.

Therefore, on the eve of the launch of the Goal Transfer List 2014, we have decided to take a look back at the top 10 deals of last year and see how those involved have fared in interim.

Below, in the first part of our 2013 review, we count down from 10 to six and invite you to vote via Twitter on whether the transfer was a success or a failure …

Radamel Falcao was Monaco’s statement signing of the summer of 2013, with the arrival of James Rodriguez from Porto relatively low-key by comparison – despite the €83.7m outlay (€45m transfer fee and an additional €38.7m in wages, taxes and agents’ fees).

However, whereas Falcao struggled for form and fitness in France, his fellow Colombian excelled, playing a key role in Monaco’s second-place finish in their first season back in Ligue 1. Indeed, James created more goals than any other player (12) and also contributed nine himself.

After achieving superstar status with his sensational goalscoring exploits at Brazil 2014, the World Cup’s Golden Boot winner joined Real Madrid for a reported €80m, allowing a suddenly prudent Monaco to make an approximate €35 million profit on a player that had helped them secure a return to the Champions League.

After allowing Edinson Cavani to join Paris Saint-Germain on July 16 of last year, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis knew that he needed a marquee replacement to appease his club’s concerned fans. Just 11 days later, the film producer pulled off a major coup by acquiring Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid.

Not only did the Partenopei beat off competition from Arsenal to land the prolific Argentina international, they only also managed to sign ‘El Pipita’ for a fee of €37m. Thanks to the money earned from the Cavani deal, De Laurentiis was able to offer Higuain a contract worth €5.5m a year, which was €1m more than the Uruguayan’s annual wage at the San Paolo.

Higuain has not scored at the same rate as Cavani, who averaged 0.75 goals per game in Serie A, but the River Plate product has netted 24 times in 47 games (0.51), thus establishing himself as a firm fan favourite at the San Paolo.

It may seem strange to say of a year in which the transfer record was broken, but Marquinhos’ move from Roma to Paris Saint-Germain was arguably the most extraordinary deal of 2013. The Brazilian’s talent is beyond dispute, having proven himself one of the classiest centre-halves in Serie A during Roma’s 2012-13 campaign.

However, PSG’s decision to pay the Giallorossi €31.4m for him was utterly remarkable given he had only played a grand total of 44 professional games. In addition, the French champions handed the youngster a five-year contract that nets him €5m per year.

Marquinhos has made just 33 appearances for PSG (six as a substitute), scoring three goals in the process, but has yet to nail down a regular starting berth, with the subsequent arrival of compatriot and fellow defender David Luiz from Chelsea having hindered his first-team chances.

Marouane Fellaini was expected to follow David Moyes to Manchester United as soon as the former Everton boss was confirmed as Alex Ferguson’s successor at Old Trafford in the summer of 2013. However, no move materialised before the expiration of the Belgium’s €27.85m buyout clause at the end of July and the deal appeared dead. United, though, were subsequently unable to land any of their primary midfield transfer targets, resulting in a deadline-day move for Fellaini.

The former Standard Liege starlet cost United just under €100m in total, with the decision to pay a transfer fee of €32.4m for a player that they could have signed just over a month previously at a reduced rate causing most consternation among the United faithful.

Fellaini’s performances during his first season at Old Trafford (no goals in 21 appearances in all competitions) failed to dispel the belief that the 27-year-old had been a ‘panic buy’ but he is, at least, enjoying something of a renaissance new Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal.

The most controversial transfer of 2013 was undoubtedly Mario Gotze’s switch from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich. BVB found the loss of a precociously talented academy product to their greatest rivals tough to take, but there was nothing they could do about it, with the Bavarians having agreed to meet the Germany international’s €37m buyout clause.

However, what infuriated Dortmund was the fact that the details of Gotze’s departure were leaked to the press ahead of a crucial Champions League clash with Real Madrid. BVB blamed Bayern, sparking a feud that still shows no signs of abating.

While relations between the two have steadily worsened over the past 18 months, Gotze’s performances have incrementally improved. The versatile attacker may be on hefty €10m a year after tax but he has, after a slow start to his Bayern career, proven himself one of the most valuable and versatile members of Pep Guardiola’s starting XI, while at the same time underlining his status as a superstar-in-the-making with his winning goal in the final of the 2014 World Cup.

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