Italian clubs kept apart in Europa League semis

The draw for the semi-finals of the Europa League on Friday kept alive the possibility of an all-Italian final as Serie A sides Napoli and Fiorentina avoided each other.

Italian clubs kept apart in Europa League semis
Karl-Heinz Riedle, the ambassador for the Uefa Champions League final in Berlin shows the name of Napoli during the draw for the Uefa Europa League semi-final. Photo: Fabrice Coffirini/AFP

Rafa Benitez's Napoli will take on Dnipro of Ukraine while Fiorentina will face holders Sevilla in the semi-finals, with the first legs to be played on Thursday, May 7th and the second legs on Thursday, May 14th.

Napoli, who are through to their first European semi-final since the side captained by Diego Maradona won the Uefa Cup in 1989, will be favourites to beat a Dnipro outfit appearing in their first ever continental semi final.

Coach Rafa Benitez is looking to win yet another European trophy having led Valencia to the UEFA Cup in 2004 before winning the Champions League with Liverpool a year later and then the Europa League with Chelsea in 2013.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina's reward for beating Dynamo Kiev and reaching their first semi-final since the 2008 UEFA Cup is a clash with the holders, with the first leg to come in Spain.

Having beaten Benfica on penalties in last year's final in Turin, Sevilla remain on course to repeat their achievement of 2006 and 2007, when they won the Uefa Cup in consecutive years.

There has not been an all-Italian European final since AC Milan beat Juventus on penalties to win the Champions League in 2003. However, there were four all-Italian finals in the UEFA Cup in the 1990s.

The final will be played in the Polish capital Warsaw on May 27th.

For the first time, the winners of the Europa League will qualify for next season's Champions League.

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Former banker Sarri only interested in money, says Napoli owner

Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis on Wednesday accused former coach Maurizio Sarri of only being interested in money and predicted that new manager Carlo Ancelotti was in for the long haul as the southerners chase a first Serie A title since 1990 and dream of Champions League success.

Former banker Sarri only interested in money, says Napoli owner
Maurizio Sarri during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Chelsea on September 23, 2018. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP

“I thought I had met a coach who would stay at Napoli for a long time,” De Laurentiis said of Sarri in an interview with Corriere dello Sport.

“At a certain point it became a question linked exclusively to money.

“Suddenly, it was established by the media that his contract must be adjusted. So what is the value of an agreement just signed? We had already gone from 700,000 euros ($800,000) to 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million).

“I also once heard him say that for his next contract, he wanted to get rich.

“Sarri's declarations of love for the city? I believed it, but then I wondered: 'What if he was using me as a bank?'”

Sarri, a former footballer who turned to a career in banking in London, Zurich, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, before returning to coaching, took over at Napoli in 2015.

But the 59-year-old moved to Chelsea on a deal reported to be worth nearly six million euros ($6.6 million) during the summer after Napoli finished runners-up to Juventus despite a club record 91 points.

His job in the Stadio San Paolo was taken by former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss Ancelotti, who has won league titles in five of Europe's top leagues as well as the Champions League with AC Milan and Real Madrid.

“Ancelotti was a date written in the football universe as if fate had decided it,” said film producer De Laurentiis, who rescued the club from bankruptcy in 2004.

“It took five minutes to get an agreement. The quickest negotiation of my fifteen years of football.”

READ ALSO: Carlo Ancelotti looks set to be Italy's new football coach

Napoli are six points behind Juventus in Serie A this term, but are top of their group in the Champions League after a late Lorenzo Insigne winner over Liverpool a week ago.

“With him, we have a human relationship. We discuss our mutual interests. And if I talk about football, he doesn't get offended,” said De Laurentiis.

“Before the match against Liverpool I called him in the morning. I expressed some opinions, politely, but also with authority.

“He told me: 'Don't worry, president, we will win'. I took it as his word and at the 87th-minute thought: 'Do you want to see what happens?' And then it happened. 

“Insigne? He hasn't surprised me. He's a product of Napoli and Naples, a complicated city where it's more difficult than elsewhere to be a prophet in your homeland.

“He (Insigne) proved to be a man.”

De Laurentiis believes that there is still hope this season despite trailing Juventus by six points after eight games.

“There will be a moment when even Juventus can break,” he warned.