UC Sampdoria head coach Claudio Ranieri has revealed he tried to convince former Argentina great Diego Maradona to return to Napoli during his stint as manager of the Naples-based club.
Addressing a press conference ahead of Sampdoria’s trip to Napoli in the Serie A, Ranieri said, “In my first year at Napoli, Ciro Ferrara (former defender) and I tried to convince him (Maradona) to come back twice but he’d decided not to return.”
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“It was a shame because it would have been great to coach a player like him,” Ranieri said.
Maradona spent the peak of his career at Napoli, enjoying a glittering seven-year spell, leading the club to their only Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 along with the UEFA Cup in 1989. His heroics endeared him with the people of the city and he left as the club’s then all-time top scorer with 115 goals.
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His death on November 25 triggered an outpour of grief from around the world, with the city and the club deciding to rename the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli’s home stadium, as the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in his honour.
Ranieri, who led Leicester City to the unlikely Premier League win in 2016, lauded the move, saying “it was a good decision by the city, the mayor, the public and everyone.”
“Being a world-class player, he was in many ways the soul of Napoli. He breathed life into Neapolitans, so I think it’s a lovely gesture,” he said.