Benitez: Hamsik more intelligent than Gerrard
By Football News
Napoli head coach Rafael Benitez has rated captain Marek Hamsik as more tactically intelligent than Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.
Hamsik was critical to Napoli's 4-2 win away to Chievo on Saturday scoring the Neapolitans' first and third goals from his attacking midfield position behind striker Gonzalo Higuain, who scored once and set up the visitors' second goal.
The Slovakian midfielder's 13th minute strike gave Napoli the lead before his second goal on 64 minutes wrestled back the advantage after Chievo had twice equalised.
Benitez, who managed Liverpool from 2004-2010 with Gerrard as his captain, was asked after the game how Hamsik compared to the 33-year-old English midfielder.
"Hamsik is very important because he slots in at the right time but Gonzalo Higuain also does well to create space for him," Benitez told Sky Sport Italia.
"Is Hamsik like Gerrard? They are different players.
"Hamsik doesn't have Gerrard's strength but he does have more tactical intelligence."
Benitez is not the first coach to question Gerrard's tactical nous with former Italian national team boss Arrigo Sacchi having once claimed that although the Liverpool skipper has all the physical attributes required to be a footballer, he does not 'have the subtle sensitivity of football' to be a 'great player'.
With Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi having left Napoli for Paris Saint-Germain in the past two years, Hamsik's importance to the Neapolitans has become more pronounced.
The 26-year-old Slovakian, who is famous for his Mohawk, has scored a brace in each of his side's two Serie A matches this season.
The win over Chievo kept Napoli top of Serie A ahead of eight matches on Sunday but while Benitez was pleased by his side's resilience in Verona, he was also concerned by their defensive frailties.
"I think that the character and the personality of my team tonight was the key to tonight's victory," Benitez said.
"We need to work more on the defensive phase, we need more training sessions and we need to analyse the mistakes we are making.
"When we make such mistakes we give our opponent the chance to score, but if we improve that aspect and manage to control the game it will be easier for us.
"I know it's just the beginning of the season, but it's clear that the team have the strength, the character and the potential in attack, so if we manage to improve the defence we will be stronger."