When Andrea Petagna scored Napoli’s winning goal against Sampdoria on Sunday, he rushed over to hug Gennaro Gattuso in what appeared to be a demonstration of the team’s affection for their coach. Yet Gattuso himself was not so sure.
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“Sometimes they love me, but I bet that sometimes they take out my picture in the morning and spit in my face,” said Gattuso after his side’s 2-1 win. “But it’s part of my job.”
Gattuso, a famously combative midfielder during his playing days, has revived Napoli in the year since he replaced Carlo Ancelotti with his distinctive style of management.
In an age when many coaches tip-toe around controversy to avoid dressing room tensions, Gattuso is known for his brutally honest approach.
“They have to know that I’m a bit old fashioned in that sense,” he said. “I like to tell things the way they are and I don’t hold grudges.
“I don’t lie to them, I don’t hold back, I tell the truth.
“Fabian Ruiz was disappointed today and I told him that in football you have to keep your head up. We are playing every three days so he will have a chance to redeem himself.”
Mexican forward Hirving Lozano, who scored one goal and set up the other on Sunday, has often had his weaknesses picked over in public by Gattuso.
“The problem last season was that he didn’t have much strength, he couldn’t play both halves and he kept falling over. Now he’s found himself again, he is scoring goals,” said Gattuso.
Even on Sunday, Napoli did not escape criticism from their hard-to-please coach.
“We played very badly in the first half, we deserved to be behind. In the second half we held our ground and did what we had to do,” he said. “We knew we were going to struggle today after playing in Europe [on Thursday].”