De Laurentiis lambasts 'anti-Napoli' media agenda

 NAPLES-- In the fallout of Napoli’s exit from the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday evening, mercurial club chairman Aurelio de Laurentiis lashed out against several journalists and accused the mainstream media of being “always against Napoli”.

 The prominent film producer, well-known for his controversial outbursts, accused La Gazzetta dello Sport of waging a hate campaign against Napoli and of being “the newspaper of Inter, Milan and Juventus”. De Laurentiis continued his rant by stating that his country was “disunited” and that “journalists from the North hate me and they hate Napoli”.

 His comments were largely directed at the Gazzetta’s Neapolitan correspondent, Mimmo Malfitano, who is the perennial subject of De Laurentiis’ criticism of the media.  Malfitano, a so-called Juventus supporter, recently had his car smashed-up in Napoli by suspected football hooligans and the paper has warned that De Laurentiis’ “irresponsible comments” could lead to more violence in the future.

 It has been a tempestuous few weeks for the chairman. This latest outburst comes after the official Napoli twitter account advised its supporters to turn off the sound if they were planning on watching the fixture against Juventus on state-run RAI television.  The game on February 28 ended in a 3-1 defeat for the Azzurri and was a blow to any title hopes they may have possessed. Napoli remain 10 points behind table-topping Juventus and will need an almost flawless finish if they are to end their 27-year drought for the title.

 Napoli fans will be hoping their club can now enter a period of calm and stability but with reported rifts between De Laurentiis and head coach, Maurizio Sarri, there could be more controversy to come at the Stadio San Paolo.

 However, De Laurentiis was quick to deny that the pair’s relationship was breaking down and after his side’s 1-3 defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday he had positive things to say about the manager:

 “There has never been any friction with Sarri, I have always spoken of him as a football connoisseur and an excellent coach.”

 Taking into account that De Laurentiis is normally one who speaks his mind, perhaps Napoli fans have reason to be optimistic about the direction their club is heading in. They will surely be hoping that their team’s performances start taking the headlines and not their flamboyant chairman’s regular outbursts.