Football: Napoli president wants to send slumping team to training camp

MILAN (REUTERS) - Napoli president Aurelio di Laurentiis has threatened to send his players to a training camp "for an unlimited period of time" if they do not improve between now and the end of the season.

The 65-year-old, a prominent Italian film producer, was furious after his team continued their recent slide by losing 0-1 at home to Lazio in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday, going down 2-1 on aggregate.

The elimination came on top of a run of five Serie A matches without a win which has seen Napoli drop from third place to sixth, leaving them with only a faint chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season.

"I have decided that if there is no change in course between now and the end of the season, the players will go to a training camp... for an unlimited period of time," he told reporters.

"It's my decision. I want discipline," he continued. "I have never failed to pay salaries or even delayed them. I have spent 386 million euros (S$566 million) on the purchase of players in 10 years and I demand commitment.

"I dislike the idea of a training camp as part of the club's philosophy, but Naples is a city which is full of distractions," di Laurentiis added. "I demand that they work with me and for a common purpose, with full commitment to the fans and the city.

"Since going to a training camp is uncomfortable in a city such as this, I hope that (the threat) awakens some pride in the players."

The defeat also increased pressure on coach Rafael Benitez, who led Napoli to a third-placed finish last season and the Coppa Italia last season but has failed to build on what was considered a reasonable, but unspectacular, first season.

He is now left with the Europa League, where Napoli have reached the quarter-finals, as their only chance of silverware this season.

"We got to the Coppa Italia and Europa League quarter-finals, so you can't say we're not doing well," said the Spaniard, whose contract runs until the end of the season.

"You can't say that we haven't done enough this season, the team has created a lot.

"We created seven clear chances and failed to score from anything thanks to some bad luck and the merits of our opponents.

"We are still alive and kicking, we just need a little more accuracy in front of goal."