Mazzarri talks up Napoli progress
Walter Mazzarri has praised his Napoli team for making huge strides over the past 12 months.
Despite failing to secure a top-three finish in Serie A, Napoli end the year as Coppa Italia holders, having beaten Juventus 2-0 in the final in May, and sit fifth in the league standings at the half-way point of the campaign, one point off the Champions League qualification places.
"It was an important year, thanks to all the work of the staff and the players," head coach Mazzarri told Napoli's official website.
"It's easy to find yourself in a high league position, but the difficult part is staying there.
"Napoli succeeded and continued to grow. We also added consistency to our results and this is a fundamental step for a club to make.
"It's been a year of great progress and great value (for our supporters)."
The former Sampdoria and Reggina coach then reflected on Napoli's highs of 2012 and spoke of his pride at seeing his side score three goals against eventual winners Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash.
"It was a great game. We beat the European champions and we were the only team in the Champions League that season to score three goals against Chelsea.
"Apart from the result, however, what matters is demonstrating to the whole of Europe that Napoli are a mature team at the highest level.
"I think it was the game that introduced us to the masses, and our efforts were appreciated on the European scene. I have regrets about the return leg, but I am still convinced that we deserved to progress (over the two matches).
"(In the Coppa Italia final against Juventus), being able to beat a team that never misses out on major tournament gave us great prestige.
"It was an award for the quality of our work and the sacrifices made by the team. We gave our fans joy, and it marked an important milestone in the club's history."
Mazzarri's biggest regret was seeing Napoli's hopes of another Champions League campaign extinguished by their 2-0 defeat to Bologna in May.
"Football is unpredictable," he said.
"It always rewards you in the long run but not in individual games. (The match against Bologna) I remember by heart.
"During the first half-hour, we could have scored three goals, but instead we ended up conceding from their first shot at goal. During this match we lost our Champions League spot."