Last season, Raul Albiol was a revelation for Napoli. Snapped up from Real Madrid after being outcast at the Bernabeau, he stepped straight in to the lineup and became a rock at the heart of Napoli's defense, becoming one of the side's key players and one of the best defenders in Italy until fatigue took its toll down the stretch of the season.
This season has been different, though; mistakes and poor form have plagued Albiol this season, costing Napoli goals and the fans sleepless nights. We all know that the 29 year old can do better, and hopefully it's just a matter of time before the Spaniard finds his form again.
Speaking to La Gazzetta Dello Sport about his experiences in Italy and the contrast between the seasons, Albiol said something that has been picked up as a major quote of the day "Italy has taught me how to suffer." Now, the assumption that many are making is that this means he's unhappy in Italy and wants to go back home to Spain, but that assumption completely ignores the next part of his quote:
"Italy has taught me how to suffer. It is more difficult to win games here compared to at Real, where some matches were already over after twenty-five minutes. In Serie A, that only happens every six matches or so."
-Source: La Gazzetta Dello Sport
Frankly, he's right. "Suffering" at Real Madrid means not winning a Classico against Barcelona, or not beating another opponent by at least three goals. They live a truly charmed life in the Spanish capital, one that Albiol was a part of for a long time. Things play out a lot differently in Italy, as Napoli fans know all too well.
Albiol also told La Gazzetta that, contrary to some recent rumors, he doesn't mind riding the bench periodically:
"I respect the decision Benitez made. We play a lot of games, so it's not a problem, because sooner or later we have two matches in just a few days."
While all athletes want to play in every game they can, the smart ones realize that sometimes it's best to sit one out so that they can be at their best for the one after it. That's the theory behind the rotation policy that Rafa Benitez uses, and while sometimes it could use some fine-tuning, it's done with the best interests of the club in mind.
Hopefully Albiol's form soon reflects the recently improved play of the side as a whole. He's a leader and an important cog in Napoli's squad, and if he plays well, it helps the whole machine work a little smoother. Best of luck, Raul.