Luciano Spalletti wants Pep Guardiola and Paolo Maldini to know that he is in charge of their biggest fans, and the Napoli boss is keen to make amends with both men.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan, Spalletti stressed that his recent spat with Rossoneri sporting director Maldini was not a reflection of his admiration for the legendary former defender.
He also stressed that he had no problem with Guardiola after the recent controversy in the media.
Manchester City boss Guardiola hailed Napoli as the best team in Europe when the Champions League quarter-final squad was formed, but Spalletti squandered the praise.
The Napoli boss saw it as a ploy – “playing to get us up so they can knock us down” – but he stressed on Tuesday that he also acknowledged it as a compliment.
It comes after Guardiola reacted to Spalletti’s remarks on Monday by saying: “I don’t want to talk about Napoli because the coach will get irritated with me. So sensitive in Italy.
This time, Spalletti tried to calm the narrative down.
“I learned a lot from Guardiola,” Spalletti said. “Everyone learned something from Guardiola. For me, Guardiola is like (Jurgen) Klopp, (Roberto) De Zerbi, all great managers.
“Guardiola, Klopp and De Zerbi are among the football managers I always look up to. So if Guardiola misunderstood my expression, I’m sorry because I’m really happy when a manager like him says good things about Napoli.
“It would take me days and days to appreciate Guardiola’s former Barcelona.”
— Official SSC Naples (@en_sscnapoli) April 11, 2023
The tunnel dispute involving Spalletti and Maldini was caught on TV ahead of the second half of Napoli’s shocking 4-0 home defeat to Milan in Serie A.
He was quoted as describing Maldini’s behavior as “disrespectful” shortly after the event.
According to Spalletti, the April 2 incident could be written off as “just a standard conversation” or “a little fight.”
The 64-year-old Napoli manager even said that he had a Maldini T-shirt hanging on the wall at home and that “everything is fine with him.”