MILAN (AFP) – Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has waded into the debate over the price Real Madrid paid for forward Gareth Bale by claiming his own creative midfielder, Marek Hamsik, is worth more.
Bale signed for the Spanish giants from Tottenham Hotspur a little over a week ago on a six-year contract for a fee of around £80 million ($124 million, 94 million euros).
The price tag has caused ripples with some, including Real Madrid assistant coach Zinedine Zidane, who called it “incomprehensible” in the current economic climate.
Benitez, who took over Italian giants Napoli after leading Chelsea to Europa League glory last season, appeared to question the Wales winger’s price tag when he said Slovakian midfielder Hamsik was worth even more.
“Is Bale worth the 100 million euros Real Madrid paid for him? If so, then I’d say you can’t put a price on Hamsik — and he is not for sale,” the Spaniard said in an interview with Mediaset.
Napoli sold the league’s top scorer last season, Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, to Paris Saint-Germain in the close season and welcomed unsettled Real Madrid player Gonzalo Higuain as a direct replacement.
While Argentine Higuain settles in to life in Serie A, Hamsik has underlined his potential for the season by scoring four times in two games.
Benitez, meanwhile, says he has high hopes for Napoli this season in both Serie A and the Champions League, where the Italian club is in Group F alongside Marseille, Arsenal and last season’s beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund.
Napoli return to Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since making the final 16 in 2012.
And in what is president Aurelio De Laurentiis’s 10th season at the club, Benitez is hoping a rotation policy brings results.
“We have a big squad and instead of using 12, 13 players we’ll rotate 19, 20,” said Benitez.
“This is De Laurentiis’s 10th year in charge of the club and we hope the next one (season) will bring a nice present to the president.
“We shouldn’t be scared of any of our opponents: that’s the mentality I’m tying to install here.”