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Marek Hamsik lashes out at Rafa Benitez during fan event

Asked about the comparison of Maurizio Sarri to former boss Rafa Benitez, Napoli captain Marek Hamsik didn't hold back one bit.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

One of the running storylines with Napoli over the last two years was the relationship between Marek Hamsik and Rafa Benitez. The club's best and most talented player, Hamsik was frequently used in mystifying fashion, both in terms of how frequently he wasn't played, as well as sometimes the role he was in as well.

There never seemed to be much of a unity between captain and manager, and indeed it seemed like by the end that Benitez and the squad as a whole stopped seeing eye-to-eye long before the end of last season. So with Napoli fully engaged in their Dimaro training retreat under new boss Maurizio Sarri, it was inevitable that questions comparing the two managers, and that it would be Hamsik made to answer them.

Fortunately, Hamsik didn't hold back at all in his response:

There’s a big difference between Benitez and Sarri.

We work much harder now, both physically and tactically. Sarri is maniacal when it comes to tactical training.

-Translated quote source: Football Italia

Frankly, it's very easy to believe what Hamsik says about the effort level in training. Benitez has never had a reputation for working his teams particularly hard in training, and Sarri has a reputation for not just having an incredible work ethic of his own, but also for making his players live up to that level.

And for as much as Rafa liked to talk up his tactical mastery, too often there was no apparent sign of that on the pitch, and not just at Napoli -- those same frustrations date back to Chelsea and Inter and even his later days at Liverpool. Sarri, on the other hand, kept an Empoli side that almost everyone had picked to go back down to Serie B after just one year and kept them up in impressive fashion, largely by creating a tactical setup and ethos that had every player drilled and knowledgeable about their roles and what they need to be doing on the pitch.

That alone is a promising sign of the season to come. Given how often Napoli seemed to run out of ideas or were too easy to stymie tactically last season, having a coach who is -- by the word of his own players -- much more focused on working and training his side in tactics and everything else might be the edge they need to get things turned around and heading back in the right direction again.