After Napoli's heartbreaking loss in the Coppa Italia semifinal, Aurelio De Laurentiis instituted a mandatory training retreat, forcing the club to stay at the Castel Volturno training grounds to work on the troubles that had seen the squad's form fall to pieces.
This wasn't a decision that sat well with manager Rafa Benitez, who tried to resign over the matter but was refused by De Laurentiis. Apparently, Rafa is still upset about the retreat, because after Napoli secured a Europa League semifinal berth on Thursday, he lashed out at De Laurentiis in a big way during his post-match press conference.
"We already proved last year that we can win without a training retreat," Benitez snarled when asked about the positive impact of the ritiro, which was ended earlier this week. "This is something people used in 1970. I am not against a training retreat per se, but I am against a punitive training retreat that has no effect other than to annoy the players."
While you can certainly understand Rafa's annoyance at being forced in to doing something he disagreed with, this smacks of dramatics for the sake of dramatics, as well as revisionist history. Several players have spoken glowingly of the impact of the retreat, putting a lie to his statement that it "only annoyed" the players, and no matter how pointless he felt it was, there's no doubting that the team has been significantly better and has played with a more unified front since the camp began.
The team certainly won games without a training retreat last season, the fact of the matter was that for a long stretch, the squad was dysfunctional and, well, not winning games. That's changed since the retreat began, no matter how sour Rafa's grapes are. Frankly, there's a feeling that this could be the opening salvo in a very, very ugly breakup, as the end of the season and the end of Rafa's contract approaches. If he and De Laurentiis start locking horns, no one within 100 miles of Naples will be safe from the blowback.