We knew it couldn't be too long before something came out of Aurelio De Laurentiis' post-match Twitter rant on Sunday, and now Napoli's owner and the president of Italy's referee association are embroiling themselves in a public war of words.
De Laurentiis accused the referees, lead by Paolo Tagliavento, of incompetence in Sunday's match against Juventus, after they missed a clear offsides call on Juventus' second goal. While ADL didn't make specific note of it in his tirade, Tagliavento also clearly bungled a decision that cost Napoli a goal mere minutes later when he whistled Kalidou Koulibaly for a ghost foul on Gianluigi Buffon when the Juventus goalkeeper fell in to the defender and dropped the ball, leading to an own goal that would have brought Napoli level after the offsides goal.
Napoli's president strongly suggested that Tagliavento and the other match officials be suspended, and AIA boss Marcello Nicchi took great offense at the suggestion that they be suspended for what he saw as nothing wrong.
"No, we will not suspend Tagliavento and his assistants," Nicchi told RaiSport this morning. "I don't want to censure anyone, but in football, more often than not, one says what one thinks, without thinking about what one is saying.
"It's absurd that, for an offside the size of a packet of cigarettes -- a matter of centimeters -- we create so much controversy. How can we fault the linesman for that goal? It was an incredibly difficult decision, on which Tagliavento has no responsibility, and none of the Napoli players complained on the pitch."
A cigarette packet? A matter of centimeters? Who knew that half of Chiellini's and Llorente's body lengths were so small! As for his latter point, that no Napoli players protested, that's patently crap. Just watch the replays and you'll see just how much Napoli didn't protest.
Nicchi wasn't done, though, leaving De Laurentiis with this little gem: "People as experienced and mature as the president of Napoli will eventually respond to a federal prosecutors' report." He also repeatedly called "strong statement" like ADL's "dangerous," essentially pinning the blame for physical attacks on refs in lower leagues on people like De Laurentiis who speak their minds about poor refereeing.
De Laurentiis was clearly unamused by Nicchi's statement, issuing this response through the Napoli website:
I contest totally Nicchi's allegations against me. Although it does not surprise me that the head of the referees wanted to defend those who had committed such serious errors.
This time, his statements are in complete disagreement with the widely viewed images on television.
My tweets were simple, basic, and absolutely not offensive, as they encompass the reality widely shared and echoed by much of the media [during and after the match].
In such a delicate match, the huge scope of the error was such that I felt obligated to highlight them.
Coming from the film industry, I have been educated in democracy and freedom of expression. Criticism is always constructive to improve the performance of all of us players including referees which must, as a profession and culture, be rigorous in fairness.
The personal thought that I intended to express was only meaning to highlight the inadequacy of the current system and the need for an urgent review of the same, as the introduction of the field in slow motion [replay] that for several years I have urged.
-Source: Napoli official website
Translation via Google translate, with adjustments for clarity
Hold on to your hats, folks. This is a ride that's almost certainly going to get interesting. Let's just hope that De Laurentiis tangling with the head of the referee association doesn't cause blowback against the club on the pitch...