Materazzi takes swipe at Benitez

Napoli are better off having replaced Rafael Benitez with “a proper coach”, according to former Inter defender Marco Materazzi.

Marco Materazzi has taken a swipe at Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez by claiming his former club Napoli “actually have a coach now”.

Madrid president Florentino Perez gave his public support to Benitez in the wake of their 4-0 thrashing by Barcelona, despite mounting criticism of his brief spell at the club so far.

The ex-Liverpool manager’s tactics have also been questioned by Napoli star Marek Hamsik this season, with the Stadio San Paolo side enjoying a strong run in Serie A under new head coach Maurizio Sarri.

And Materazzi, who played under Benitez at Inter, believes the 55-year-old has a history of upsetting the key players at his disposal.

“The main difference is that Napoli actually have a coach now,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“On Saturday I was watching the Clasico and I felt like Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Paolo Cannavaro – all players with a strong character who never got on with that one.

“At this moment, Napoli are frightening opponents. They are organised, all run for the team and have Gonzalo Higuain, one of the five best strikers in the world.”

Napoli are just two points off Serie A leaders Inter after 13 games, with Fiorentina and Roma also in the frame, but Materazzi believes the Scudetto race is likely to be between the top two.

“Fiorentina and Roma are playing well, but I don’t think the Viola can keep up that kind of tempo until May,” he added. 

“The Giallorossi are a complete squad, but we have to see if the atmosphere surrounding them will let them chase the big prize.

“Juventus are already getting back into the title race, but I don’t think they’ll win it. AC Milan will enter the Europa League. Sinisa Mihajlovic is very good, but if you don’t have quality in the squad, there isn’t much you can do.”

I can't compete with Messi – Icardi

The Inter striker was happy to earn a place in the Goal 50 but he feels it will be difficult to surpass the best players from his homeland

GOALEXCLUSIVE   By Renato Maisani

Inter striker Mauro Icardi was pleased to be named in the 2015 Goal 50, but concedes it will be difficult to ever become the best attacker in South America while the likes of Lionel Messi are around.

The 22-year-old was one of the youngest inclusions in the annual list after his 22 Serie A goals last season saw him share the Capocannoniere prize with Verona’s Luca Toni.

Icardi is tipped to have a big future in the game but the player himself recognises that his path to the top may be blocked – at least at national level – while Argentina boasts so many other phenomenal players.

“There are several great footballers in South America. I try to do my job and I’m happy with what I did last season, and because of that I could receive this award,” Icardi, who has been capped once by his country, told Goal.

“But it will be hard to become the best South Amerian striker because there are a lot of outstanding players from Argentina.

“I’m Argentine and that’s why I admire Messi most. For me, he’s the best player in the world.”

You can watch the full exclusive video interview of Mauro Icardi above

Mancini: Inter only fifth favourites for Serie A title

The Nerazzurri returned to the top of Serie A with a 4-0 victory over Frosinone, but the coach continues to talk down their title chances

Roberto Mancini insists Inter are still only the fifth most likely team to win Serie A this season, despite his side moving to the top of the table on Sunday.

Goals from Jonathan Biabiany, Mauro Icardi, Jeison Murillo and Marcelo Brozovic saw Inter beat Frosinone 4-0 at San Siro, taking advantage of slip-ups from Roma and Fiorentina over the course of the weekend to return to pole position in the Italian top flight.

That sets up a mouth-watering first-versus-second clash next Monday when the Nerazzurri take on Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli.

Mancini, though, believes Napoli are one of four other sides who are more likely to win the league than his own team.

“There are three or four teams better equipped than us to win the Scudetto,” the head coach said to Mediaset Premium.

“We are happy to be up there, but there is a long way to go this season.

“I do not think the Napoli game will be a Scudetto crossroads. Napoli, Roma, Fiorentina and Juventus are better equipped to win the title.”

On the match itself, Mancini was impressed by his team’s showing as they won for the fourth time in a row while keeping a clean sheet.

He continued: “We are satisfied as it was not easy to win this game, especially 4-0.

“I am particularly happy with Jonathan Biabiany’s goal. He is a lovely guy and a player who can give us a lot of quality.

“We had to improve in terms of converting the chances we created and in the game more than two goals arrived. 

“We deserved the victory and are happy with it.”

Inter 4-0 Frosinone: Mancini's men go top with simple win

The Nerazzurri picked up three points against their struggling visitors on Sunday to overtake Napoli and Fiorentina to go first in the Italian top flight

Inter moved back to the top of Serie A on Sunday courtesy of a 4-0 thrashing of Frosinone at San Siro.

Respective 2-2 draws for Fiorentina and Roma over the weekend opened the door for Roberto Mancini’s side to resume top spot and they were in control throughout against the top-flight newcomers.

The home side were in charge right from the start and eventually turned first-half dominance into the lead when Jonathan Biabiany fired home on the rebound.

All eight of Inter’s league wins this term had been by a single goal before Sunday, but Mauro Icardi’s well-worked effort after the break gave them a healthy advantage.

And the result was capped late on as Jeison Murillo bundled home his first Inter goal and Marcelo Brozovic found the net in stoppage time, putting a skip in Mancini’s step ahead of next week’s title showdown with second-placed Napoli.

Inter have been accused of stodgy play this term, but they dominated from the off and Adem Ljajic was tantalisingly close to turning Alex Telles’ left-wing cross home before Frosinone goalkeeper Nicola Leali came off his line to punch clear.  

Icardi nearly tapped home a delivery from Yuto Nagatomo, but his attempt hit a defender before bouncing just wide, however, Inter’s pressure told in the 29th minute. 

Leali did well to keep out Ljajic’s powerful shot from just outside the area, but Biabiany was the quickest to react and fire home his first goal of the season the rebound.  

Stevan Jovetic could have doubled Inter’s lead in the dying second of the first half after a great run through the middle, but his shot lacked the power to beat Leali.

Biabiany came close to netting his second immediately after the restart, playing a quick one-two with Icardi, only to blast his shot over the crossbar from close range.

Mancini’s men would eventually get their second goal in the 54th minute after a sublime team move. Jovetic teed up Ljajic, who exchanged passes with Icardi inside the area before returning the ball to the Argentine again for a simple finish from close range.

Ljajic seemed desperate to add his name to the scoresheet after playing a role in Inter’s two goals, but the winger blasted over from 20 yards out after being set up by Jovetic.

Murillo made it 3-0 in the closing stages of the game with a calm finish after a brilliant backheel from Jovetic opened the door.

And Ljajic could at least console himself with another assist in stoppage time as his pass found Brozovic in the penalty area and the Croatia playmaker clipped beyond Leali to put the icing on a dominant home showing.

Mancini: Inter must improve to win Scudetto

The former Manchester City boss says his Nerazzurri side still have room for improvement in a number of areas despite being joint leaders

Roberto Mancini feels Inter still have room for improvement if they are to challenge for the Serie A title this campaign.

The Giuseppe Meazza side sit joint first on the league table alongside Fiorentina after 12 games, with both sides on 27 points.

Mancini is not getting carried away, though, and has acknowledged his team must step up if they are to win silverware.

“We need to improve in two or three areas if we want to stay up there in the mix until the end,” Mancini said at a news conference before the match at home to Frosinone on Sunday.

“There are lots of games to play. Hopefully the fans will keep coming to San Siro in droves. We need them.

“This sort of game isn’t easy for anyone. Frosinone are having a great season.”

Inter have been struggling going forward this campaign – irrespective of their fine start – and Mancini has acknowledged attackers Mauro Icardi and Stevan Jovetic are still getting used to each other.

“Icardi and Jovetic need to play together more often. They have tremendous potential for improvement,” he added, before revealing part of his starting XI for the encounter on Sunday.

“My line-up against Frosinone? I’ll give you four names: [Samir] Handanovic, [Geoffrey] Kondogbia, [Yuto] Nagatomo and Felipe Melo.”