On the eve of the Viareggio Cup, the Italian daily ‘Corriere dello Sport’ has had a long interview with Frank Liivak’s coach at SSC Napoli Primavera, Giampaolo Saurini.
RdS offers an exclusive translation of the interview.
The 45-year-old coach from Colleferro, Roma province, set up the targets for his young side at the important football tournament that will start this afternoon.
The ‘Azzurrini’ will take on RSC Anderlecht, the defending champions. Saurini takes the chance also to have a look at the Youth League knock-out stage, when Napoli will take on Real Madrid at the end of the month (26th of February first tie in Spain).
Previous interview to Saurini here
Presentation of Viareggio Cup here
Napoli Primavera look like the outsider that no one expects, isn’t it true Mr. Saurini?
Yes, it’s true. However we’ve been rather good than lucky. We went beyond any optimistic expectation, I’m convinced of that since a while. At the same time I never get tired repeating to the lads that they have to stay focused because the road is still very long. Especially in the championship (Campionato Nazionale Primavera, the national championship for U-20’s – A.P.). Instead, the time at the Viareggio Cup is limited. As far as concerns the Youth League, the competition is really getting going now.
Did you expect to make it to the Youth League knock-out stage?
If I had the chance to see it earlier with my eyes, I wouldn’t have believed in it. However, it’s my nature: I never surrender, even if all odds are against. I have always hoped, deep inside me, to make a feat. And it happened. True that this is just a partial achievement, however we shall not forget that we managed to keep in line big squads like Borussia, Arsenal and also Olympique Marseille. There was already a big age gap between us and them.
And it seems that things are pretty similar in the Championship?
True, we also have an age handicap there. We’re among the youngest squads and this is certainly penalizing us.
However, looking at the results, it wouldn’t seem so…
At the moment, we’re 5th on the table (they’re actually 6th together with Palermo having 22 points, 13 short of tableleader Lazio – A.P.) however, if our age average were higher, we would probably be higher on the table too. I would stress the fact that now, the more the games, the more the risk this age gap might affect us. During February, we will be busy on three fronts (Championship, Viareggio Cup and Youth League - A.P.) and it is quite known that the physical recovery time required for older players is shorter compared to the one required by the younger ones. Nonetheless, I have to say that I can count on a fantastic squad: these lads give everything they have both during the games and during trainings.
Indeed, also Rafa Benitez did congratulate about that. They are very alert kids.
They are indeed and they are skilled too. We have managed many times to compensate this gap with good will and organization. I’m expecting even more since next season as the group will be older and more unified.
Are Napoli one of the big squads at the Viareggio Cup?
Well, we were unlucky. We picked up Anderlecht, the defending champions. They look like Martians, however we will give it a try.
What about the other two group members: Palermo and APIA Leichardt?
We’ll be groping around, it’s a bit hard to say now. It will depend on the Palermo’s call-ups’ list. The Australian squad instead it’s completely unknown.
Championship, Viareggio Cup and Youth League: what is your preference list?
My preference list is random as priorities are set by the events chronology. As usual, we aim one target after the other. As of now, we’re focused on the Belgian opposition, and so on. Later on we will think about trying to progress in the Youth League, and then keeping a play-off spot in the championship. This method is giving good results, isn’t it?
‘Corriere dello Sport’
SSC Napoli vs. RSC Anderlecht will be Liivak’s opening game at the Viareggio Cup tonight.
Kick-off time at 16:30 EET (or GMT +2)
Live streaming from Rai Sport website (geo-IP block may apply outside of Italy).