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Corrado Saccone exclusive: Life at Napoli - motivating Higuain, working with Benitez & Lavezzi genius

Napoli's long-time fitness chief Corrado Saccone admits he's delighted seeing the club sitting free and clear at the top of the Serie A table.

Saccone spent eight years with the Azzurri, working alongside some of the greats of modern coaching, before his profession would take him around the world. Albania has since been his home for over six years, where Saccone has been able to pass on all the experience he's garnered to the players and coaching staff FC Partizani and SC Gjilani. But it is in Italy with Napoli where Saccone made his name and reputation inside the game.

“Yes I had the honour to work with important coaches like Walter Mazzari, Rafa Benitez and Maurizio Sarri at Napoli," Saccone told

"They each had a clear philosophy and vision of how they wanted to play and it was very beautiful to work with them."

Indeed, Saccone says each coach brought with him a different approach, though were always open with the staff they inherited.

He continued, "Mazzari and Sarri paid more attention to the work without the ball, they wanted from me to work without the ball with the players.

"Instead Benitez came from a different culture, he wanted from us to find the ideal fitness level and to implement this on the pitch - always with the ball. I must admit I liked more working with Benitez because I liked this kind of challenge and philosophy. I tried always to be in line with his ideas.

"They are all important coaches and we achieved great results with all of them. With Mazzari and Sarri we finished second in the league and with Benitez we won a Coppa and a Supercoppa Italiana."

Saccone admits the success during his time with Napoli is something he'll never forget. The fitness coach, now 62, concedes the intensity was great, but the rewards always made working through the demands of top level football worth it.

“Yes I worked for almost eight years at Napoli and there I have had good moments but also bad moments. For every year there, we achieved qualification for Europe in the Champions League or Europa League.

"Other beautiful moments were the titles won and also finishing second behind an important team like Juventus. That was a great achievement. Winning trophies against important teams like Milan, Juventus and Inter was a great pleasure for us. Even in the bad moments, I tried to face them always in a positive spirit."

That positivity made Saccone a popular and welcome presence during his time with Napoli - particularly with the players. And he says the feeling was mutual. Saccone treasuring the memories of working with world class talent.

He continued: “Yes at Napoli I had the honour to train important players like Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly. All of whom in collaboration with players that maybe weren't so big, but were important and helped us to achieve great results.

"In training these great players, there were some differences. For example, Cavani was a great player who wanted to always train. (Gonzalo) Higuain didn't like too much training but when you stimulated him he gave always 100%.

"Lavezzi with the ball at his feet was phenomenal and without the ball he had some problems. Koulibaly liked always to work after training."

Saccone added, "As a physical trainer, the most important thing to have with a player is a close relationship. It's give and take. They can give to you something and you can give to them something."

Reflecting on today's Napoli, Saccone believes their runaway lead at the top of the table has arrived as everything has fallen into place for Luciano Spalletti's team. The stumbles of defending champions AC Milan, the fading of Inter Milan and Juventus' 15-point penalty for financial irregularities has all contributed to Napoli dominating the season. Though Saccone is quick to add, this doesn't take away from the work of Spalletti and his team.

“I think Serie A this season has been subdued, without taking the merits from Napoli for the fantastic season they have had until now," he said.

"They have a really competitive team, a competitive bench that maybe some years ago when I was there we didn't. I think that this year the league has a lower level because Juventus isn't the team of some years ago, Milan isn't the team of last year and also Inter is showing a great inconsistency.

"Regarding the physical aspect, I think that due to the fact of a lot of matches played, there remains a greater need to find the best form of the recuperation at the physical and psychological aspect (in Italian football)."

As he watches Napoli from afar, Saccone is waiting to jump back into football. It's been a career which has taken him around the world "Italy, Albania, Kosovo, Armenia, Saudi Arabia... I've been able to work in different countries and different environments". And it's been one that has given him a life experience beyond the wildest dreams he had as a basketball coach in the early '90s.

"For me, a person who came from Italy, who was used to working in a certain way. When you go abroad, it's different because you need to take into consideration also other things like the culture of that country, the religion aspect and other needs of the player."

But as Saccone concludes, it is also the experiences he's collected, particularly during his time with Napoli, which has made this career journey so successful.

"It's also about what you can offer when going abroad. You need to bring something new to these countries, and for me all these experiences were beautiful and positive."

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Xhulio Zeneli

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