Lazio boss Edoardo Reja is expecting his return to Naples this weekend to be a concoction of pressure and emotion. Napoli take on Lazio in a match that holds much importance as both sides are in direct competition for a berth in next season’s Champions League.
Reja, who was a successful Coach at Napoli, has already spoken to the media about his feelings ahead of the upcoming game:
“It will be emotional for me. The experience at Napoli completed me. On Sunday it will be an emotional moment for me to return to the San Paolo as the Napoli fans loved me a lot, and I did the same. It will be a very special day for me,” Reja told Novantesimo.it.
The wily old fox of Italian football spent four years at the Partenopei, and during this period he contributed to one of the most important eras in the club’s history. In 2005, when Reja, then 60-years-old, took up the 20th coaching role of his career, the Neapolitans were in turmoil. Relegated to Serie C1 after being declared bankrupt with debts of up to €70m, Napoli looked on the brink of extinction.
This was until well-known film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis refounded the club and breathed new life into the city. Reja was next on De Laurentiis’ list and by 2006 Napoli were back in Serie B. The experienced Coach then masterminded what was seen as a miracle and managed to get Napoli promoted back to Serie A at the first attempt. The success story continued and UEFA Cup qualification followed, but March 2009 saw Reja controversially dismissed after the club dropped to 11th place in the division.
Now Reja is back with his latest club, Lazio, which he has also transformed. Few would have thought that the Biancocelesti would have been able to produce the football they have this season, and even fewer would have predicted that they would sit in a lofty fifth place and tantalisingly close to the Champions League places. Reja is determined to finish strongly, although he is under no illusions of the task ahead:
“For Lazio, it will be difficult as we have absences in defence, and this disappoints me. Napoli seem full of enthusiasm, and we must look to obtain a positive result. It is also a direct clash for a Champions League spot,” he commented.
Napoli, who are also impressing this term under the stewardship of Walter Mazzarri, have one eye on the Scudetto itself. Should the Partenopei win and the Milan Derby end in a draw, they will find themselves only one point away from Milan at the top.
Reja may be feeling the emotions when he takes Lazio to the San Paolo, but he will not want to aid his old club in any shape or form. Lazio’s European dream is his only concern, and should this mean that he breaks the hearts of all the Neapolitans who still love him so much, then so be it.