Senegalese manager Aliou Cisse says international football – and the African Cup of Nations in particular – should never take a back seat to club commitments and “challenged” Napoli not to buy African players, as previously suggested by the club.
The 46-year-old’s comments come after Napoli owner and president Aurelio de Laurentiis said the Italian club will avoid signing more African players unless they agree not to attend or participate in the AFCON tournament.
Recall that Napoli boss De Laurentiis said he would only sign African players going forward if they signed a waiver saying they would not appear at the Nations Cup – with the next finals set for early 2024 in Ivory Coast.
The coach explained that a football player could have several teams when it comes to clubs but can only have one true team and that is the flag of his nation.
“Clubs will never be above our flag and our teams. And every Senegalese who plays in Europe, wherever he is, if he is competent, I will summon him to defend the colors of the nation.
Cisse expressed his respect for De Laurentiis but stood his ground on the idea that Napoli cannot truly decide not to recruit African players.
The timing of the Nations Cup – traditionally held in January and February – has led to repeated disputes with European clubs who have been forced to release players mid-season.
Napoli lost defender Kalidou Koulibaly – who captained Senegal to victory at the 2021 Nations Cup, played in Cameroon this year – and midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, called up for the tournament last season, and the pair lost six club games.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf), the continent’s governing body, said it was “shocked” by De Laurentiis’ “irresponsible and unacceptable comments” and called on UEFA’s European colleagues to launch a disciplinary inquiry into the 73-year-old. . old.
A CAF statement questioned De Laurentiis’ motive asking if he could say or do the same thing he hopes to do to Africans, to players from South America, Asia, and other Confederations especially as it means banning them from participating in their continental competition.
Koulibaly spent eight years at Napoli before joining Chelsea last month and has responded to comments from De Laurentiis by saying it is important to ‘respect everyone’.
“If he thinks the team can play without African players, it’s up to him,” said the centre-back. “But I don’t think everyone at the club has the same idea as him, because I know his fans and they don’t think that way.”
“Of course clubs are afraid of the Nations Cup, but it is important for our country and for our continent,” added coach Cisse.
“The president of Napoli is an important figure. I met him once and just by shaking his hand I could tell that he was a serious and honest man.”