Giovanni Simeone: “SpalIetti is a maestro of the game”
Giovanni Simeone sat down with AS Italy correspondent Mirko Calemme to look back at the historical Scudetto win with Napoli.
Giovanni Simeone is already a legend in the city of Naples. Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen may have made the headlines with his goals but in his 24 games this season, Simeone chipped in with three goals and was a key member of the squad for outgoing head coach Luciano Spalletti.
- Giovanni, you are Italian champion. Have you taken it all on board yet?
- Every day I see something new that reminds me of the feat. The other day, for example, I visited Sorrento and there was a street with dozens of banners showing the results of all our matches...
- How was the move to Naples in 2022?
- I noticed a difference with the nature of the people here compared to the north of the country. Here they welcome you with love right away and this helped me a lot. Also, being the first Argentine here for some time, they always showed me additional affection.
- You moved to Napoli after having scored 17 goals for Verona, and you were immediately told not to expect a regular starting place with the new club.
- The club were very straight with me from the start. I was told to be patient and that my chance would come. The sporting director was great, he made everything very clear to me. I prepared for each game as if I was going to start.
- What has impressed you about your colleague Osimhen?
- At times he seems disengaged from the game, but then out of the blue when he gets the ball, he can conjure up special things. He is a spontaneous player and does so much on instinct and it’s this which makes life very difficult for defenders.
- Did you expect Kvara to be so decisive this season?
- He has a fantastic way of taking on defenders. He is so driven on the pitch and has nothing else on his mind. I knew he had plenty of talent but when you see him play at close quarters, just like Victor (Osimhen), it’s incredible.
- What team did you find when you arrived at the club?
- I understood that I needed to work hard and endeavour to be able to give something different to such a good group. The first thing I thought is that there were many players who played the ball well, with enormous quality, but few who attacked space. The only one played that way was Osimhen and, if he was absent, I tried to play in a similar fashion.
- Did you imagine dominating Serie A in the manner you did?
- I know it’s a cliché, but we prepared each match as if it were a final. We didn’t think look ahead but focused totally at the game in hand.
- When did you realise that you were destined to win the title?
- The victory against Roma in January, when I scored the goal felt that it could be a reality. My dad even told me, he sent me a message at night claiming: “This looks like a team who has the title in their sights.” I was moved as he sent a similar message to the Argentina when they won the round of 16 game in Qatar.
- The only downside recently was the defeat to Milan in the Champions League.
- It was difficult to accept that I would miss the game, Victor missed the first leg too. We were all convinced that the team could go even further. It was a hard blow and came just after we beat Juve in Turin and we started seeing the the scudetto loom closer…
In these weeks I look back at my time as a younger player: I was never a super talent and had to earn every step I took.
- You have been in Italy for seven years and have scored almost 80 goals in Italy. Do you think that Serie A is growing?
- Every year more people want to come and play here. The teams are competitive and the race for the title is now more open. The food and climate are excellent and each city has its charm.
- How did you follow Argentina’s win at the World Cup?
- I watched the games from home, here on Naples and really celebrated the win. Argentina is an incredible country and it deserved this happiness.
- Scaloni has called you up now twice in a row.
- This is a source of great pride and it’s a privilege to be called up to play for Argentina.
- Spalletti also always spoke well of you and he’s already announced his departure.
- The coach is great teacher of the game but also of life. He has an incredible way with words that really create an impact and you want to keep listening to him. Every day we had video sessions of about 40 minutes, I love listening to them and learning. I would like to be a coach and I would love to be emulate Spalletti and have his same passion. He said he wants to rest, be with the family and his decision must be respected.