This season was not an easy one for Marek Hamsik. Napoli's captain played very well for some stretches of the season and struggled in others, and while he ultimately scored 12 goals and tallied 12 assists across all competitions, it's unlikely that he'll look back on this season fondly, especially after the way he was handled by Rafa Benitez.
When asked about the departure of his now-former manager, Hamsik's reply was quite curt. "The goodbye to Benitez was normal, with a professional handshake," he told Slovakian reporters while on international duty this week. "I am not angry with [Benitez], but next season I hope to have more playing time. I always want to play and being on the bench certainly couldn’t make me happy. I behaved as a professional and the rapport with the Coach was professional. It was normal."
At the heart of Hamsik's issues this season was Benitez too-frequently leaving his best player on the bench. Napoli played 59 matches this season between Serie A, the Europa League, the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa, and the failed Champions League playoff round. Hamsik started only 39 of those, including just 28 league matches. Too often, Hamsik was left on the bench in important games for Napoli, while the attack was left to whither on the pitch without it's conductor to orchestrate things and pull the strings. Even during matches when Hamsik was subbed in, Benitez' habits of often leaving his subs for later in the match meant Hamsik had little time in which to impact and change the match.
Hamsik also spoke of how he felt about the campaign as a whole, and if his feelings are any indication, neither he nor his teammates are at all happy about it.
It was a sad campaign. We failed in the semi-finals of the Europa League and Coppa Italia, then went missing for the decisive Champions League game with Lazio.
Obviously that hurts and we are well aware that we didn’t do everything in our power. We are disappointed and it matters little to me that I set a personal record for goals and assists. What really matters is the team.
Anything that makes Hamsik sad is a bad thing in my book, and this past season would certainly qualify. Hopefully whoever takes charge of Napoli for next season properly appreciates Hamsik's importance to the side and utilizes him appropriately. He's too good to leave rotting on the bench as Benitez did, and he deserves to be happy. Make Marek happy, Napoli.