Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said an intense month of pre-season training and friendlies had left his players "tired" in their 4-0 defeat to Barcelona, but he insisted his squad is ready for the new Serie A season.

Second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, along with a brace from Luis Suarez after the break, earned Barcelona a convincing win in Michigan, though Ancelotti claimed the opening two strikes should not have stood.

Suarez buried the rebound after a Griezmann shot was saved in the 48th minute, and the Frenchman scored himself eight minutes later after a pass from Jordi Alba, who appeared to be in an offside position.

Ancelotti defended his side's performance, telling reporters: "We played well in the first half but then we were affected by those two offside goals at the start of the second half.

"We were up against a magnificent team and afterwards they took control, but those two goals shouldn't have been given and they changed the match.

"I think we were also a little tired due to the heavy training loads after a month of intense work. I don't see any problems other than that."

Napoli travel to Fiorentina for their Serie A season opener on August 24 having won three, lost three, and drawn one of their pre-season friendlies.

Despite their mixed form and relatively modest activity in the transfer market, with three of their six major signings being goalkeepers, Ancelotti remains optimistic about Napoli's chances of improving on their second-placed finish in 2018-19.

"My general impression is good after these two matches with Barcelona," he said, reflecting on Saturday's defeat and the 2-1 reverse in their previous outing against the Blaugrana.

"We'll build on this as we continue to work towards the start of the season.

"I'm happy with the work we've done both on our training camp and in these international friendlies we've played. We have a top-quality squad and I'm sure we can have an excellent season.

"I've seen a lot of things I like from the lads and the overall feeling is positive. We'll be ready when the season begins on 24 August."

Neymar returning to Camp Nou would give Ernesto Valverde a selection problem but the Barcelona boss can handle the headache, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Barca have been linked with a move for their former forward - now of Paris Saint-Germain - throughout the close season.

The champions of LaLiga are already blessed with plenty of attacking firepower, having added Antoine Griezmann to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho ahead of their title defence.

The vastly experienced Ancelotti, a former Real Madrid head coach, thinks the addition of another superstar forward would create a tricky balancing act, albeit one Barca boss Valverde is capable of controlling.

"If Neymar arrives, it will not be easy to pick the team," Napoli boss Ancelotti told reporters.

"I think Valverde has the ability to manage it because he has done so in the past.

"But I am of the idea that the team wins, not a single player. It will be important for all of these players to know how to work together."

Ancelotti was speaking before Napoli's second successive pre-season friendly against Barca in the United States.

The Serie A side lost 2-1 in Wednesday's first encounter and have a chance to bounce back on Saturday in Michigan before their league campaign begins against Fiorentina on August 24.

"I hope to see a repeat of the good things we did in Miami," Ancelotti said.

"The lads showed real character and good ideas. We just need the same again as it's good for our confidence."

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti expects Barcelona to contend for a first Champions League title since 2015 after their signings this close season.

The five-time European champions have fallen short in the continent's premier club competition in recent seasons, including an extraordinary semi-final loss to Liverpool in 2018-19.

Ancelotti, whose side face Barca in a friendly in Florida on Wednesday, feels Ernesto Valverde's men should be contenders once more this season after seeing the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong arrive.

"I believe that Barcelona is always a candidate to win the Champions League," he told a news conference.

"It has a player like [Lionel] Messi and many others, so I think they always compete to win the maximum and the maximum is the Champions League.

"I think that with the signings they have done, this year will be very competitive."

Napoli are also looking to move forward after finishing second in Serie A and getting knocked out in the Champions League group stage.

Ancelotti believes LaLiga and the Premier League remain the world's best competitions, but added Serie A is improving.

"At the moment, Italian football is a little below LaLiga and the Premier League, but something is moving," he said.

"Last year Cristiano [Ronaldo] arrived [at Juventus], which is very important for our league. I think in the future Italian football is going to reach the level.

"The stadiums are being renovated and I think that little by little Italy will be better."

Carlo Ancelotti insists he is "not disappointed" after media reports began to indicate Napoli have missed out on Lille winger Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal.

Ivory Coast international Pepe scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last term, subsequently emerging as one of the hottest properties in French football.

Pepe has been linked with a host of Europe's biggest clubs, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

Napoli and Arsenal appeared to be leading the chase, but speculation on Saturday suggested the Gunners had all but wrapped up a £72million deal.

And after beating Liverpool 3-0 in a friendly on Sunday, head coach Ancelotti seemed to accept Napoli have missed out on the forward.

"I don't like to talk about players of other teams, but I'm not disappointed," Ancelotti told reporters when asked about Arsenal's apparent success in landing Pepe.

"We have some players like Allan, [Kalidou] Koulibaly and Fabian Ruiz who are still on holiday. We are definitely looking for players.

"The transfer window is so long. We are looking [at signings]. If there are opportunities, we will look to seize those chances."

Lorenzo Insigne gave Liverpool's defenders a torrid afternoon as Napoli beat the European champions 3-0 in a friendly at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp fielded a strong side but Napoli's homegrown forward took centre stage, tormenting Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold with his pace and close control as he scored the opening goal and played in Arkadiusz Milik for the second.

Insigne was involved again when substitute Amin Younes made it 3-0 seven minutes into the second half and, although Liverpool improved with the introduction of Rhian Brewster and Harry Wilson in the last half-hour, they rarely threatened Alex Meret's goal.

Teenage midfielder Harvey Elliott made his debut as a late substitute after joining the club from Fulham and showed some neat touches but Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti will have left Edinburgh happier than Klopp after his side impressed throughout.

Simon Mignolet was forced into a good diving save to turn Insigne's daisy-cutter free-kick around the post early on and the Italian forward went one better after 17 minutes, dribbling 20 yards with the ball at his feet as Matip backed off before sending a thunderous dipping shot into the bottom corner of the net.

Little more than 10 minutes later Insigne caused more havoc, breaking down the Napoli left and centring a low cross that Milik lifted deftly over the diving Mignolet as he slid into to meet it.

Liverpool's failure to deal with Insigne continued in the second half, when he turned Alexander-Arnold before unleashing a shot that Mignolet parried into the path of Napoli substitute Younes, who duly rolled the ball into an unguarded net.

Brewster's dangerous inswinging cross almost found its way past Meret in the closing stages and Wilson struck a fierce drive that the Napoli keeper did brilliantly to parry around the post as he preserved his clean sheet on a satisfying afternoon for the Serie A side.

Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed Napoli are in negotiations to sign Lille forward Nicolas Pepe.

The Ivory Coast international hit 22 Ligue 1 goals last term to announce himself among Europe's most in-demand talents.

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with Pepe, as well as Champions League winners Liverpool.

And Napoli are also in the race after Pepe's representative arrived in Italy to begin talks over the 24-year-old's future.

"If his agents are here it is obvious we're interested," Ancelotti told reporters on Thursday. "Negotiations are ongoing, anything can happen."

A deal for James Rodriguez appears no closer to completion but Ancelotti seems confident of Napoli signing a player he previously coached at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic, he is among the players who we are interested in," the Italian added.

"Let's see what happens. There is the will of Real to sell and of Napoli to take him."

Napoli have also been linked with a move for Mauro Icardi, who has been told he is not part of Inter's project.

Icardi is reportedly keen on joining Serie A champions Juventus instead, but Ancelotti indicated it would not mean Arkadiusz Milik leaves Napoli if the Argentina attacker signs for the Partenopei.

"None of our players are currently on the market," Ancelotti added. "All the players are here because we intend to keep them. Of course, if someone wants to try a new experience, we're here to listen."

Carlo Ancelotti said he has always had great strikers as Napoli continue to be linked with Inter outcast Mauro Icardi.

Icardi – absent from Inter's pre-season tour – is not wanted by new head coach Antonio Conte as the Serie A club try to sell their former captain.

Napoli and Italian champions Juventus are reportedly vying for Icardi's signature ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Asked about Icardi as Napoli also try to negotiate a deal with Real Madrid for James Rodriguez, Ancelotti told TV Luna following Wednesday's 3-3 draw against Cremonese: "A player in the James role can certainly help us in our finishing or in through balls for the strikers.

"I always had great centre-forwards in my career, from Pippo Inzaghi to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Icardi is a great centre-forward, as is Arkadiusz Milik.

"The Pole is perhaps a more complete player, even if the Argentine is a stronger finisher in the box.

"Talking about Icardi now would be undermining Milik's qualities, but I am sure we'll all be happy with the squad at our disposal come August 31."

It has been a busy off-season for Napoli, who finished second behind Juve in the race for the Scudetto last term.

Napoli have signed star defender Kostas Manolas from Roma and Fenerbahce's Eljif Elmas, while Amadou Diawara, Marko Rog and Raul Albiol have departed.

Carlo Ancelotti said Napoli are still negotiating a deal to prise James Rodriguez from Real Madrid as Atletico Madrid reportedly circle.

James has been linked with Napoli throughout the transfer window, but a deal reuniting the Colombia star and head coach Ancelotti is yet to materialise.

Atletico have emerged as a possible destination for James amid a deadlock in talks between Napoli and LaLiga giants Madrid.

Asked about Napoli's pursuit of James, Ancelotti told TV Luna: "I'm not aware of a deal with Atletico.

"We're still talking for James, a player that I really like. I'm very attached to James, I rate him very highly and he can certainly improve our team.

"He doesn't need to re-announce himself, he's a great player. But he's not the only player we're openly negotiating for. We're assessing many players."

While negotiations for James drag on, Napoli are close to signing Fenerbahce and Macedonia midfielder Eljif Elmas.

With Amadou Diawara now at Roma and Marko Rog poised for Cagliari, Napoli have turned to the 19-year-old Elmas as Ancelotti's men look to dethrone Serie A champions Juventus in 2019-20.

"We're very close and I hope a deal closes quickly. He's a very interesting player and we're defining the final details," Ancelotti added. "I hope he arrives before we leave Dimaro.

"We were looking for a player skilled at playing between the lines, and Elmas has a lot of quality.

"The squad is already very complete. We have to take a little step at a time. We're very close to the top.

"We'll be happy as of August 31. Napoli are working and nothing is impossible, but then there are the wants of the players or problems with the clubs or agents."

Carlo Ancelotti expects negotiations with Real Madrid to bring James Rodriguez to Napoli will take "a very long time".

Ancelotti, who worked with James, 28, at both Madrid and Bayern Munich, is keen to sign the Colombia international.

But Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis has told Madrid they will have to lower their demands for James, who is surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu.

De Laurentiis is confident a deal can be struck, however, while Ancelotti has already been in contact with the playmaker.

"James can play in many positions behind the centre-forward," Ancelotti told TV Luna on Saturday after a pre-season loss to Benevento. "He is a number 10 used to playing behind the striker or as a winger, with the tendency to cut inside.

"I sent him a happy birthday message this week. There are negotiations in progress, it's going to take a very long time, but we aren't desperate or anything.

"If it doesn't work out, we'll still be a strong team and might go for a different target."

Napoli have also been linked with Mauro Icardi, who has been told he can leave Inter, but Ancelotti indicated he is satisfied with options in attack that include Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens.

"As for the striker, a modern centre-forward can't just be a finisher now, which is why Arkadiusz Milik is very important for us," the Italian said.

James Rodriguez's potential move to Napoli is being held up by Real Madrid's unreasonable asking price, according to Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

LaLiga giants Madrid reportedly want more than €40million for playmaker James, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti is eager to be reunited with the player he coached in Spain and Germany, but a stalemate in negotiations is said to have alerted Atletico Madrid.

Napoli are remaining calm, with De Laurentiis confident the Colombia international favours a switch to Stadio San Paolo.

"Carlo likes him very much and we're waiting for a more reasonable demand," De Laurentiis told Corriere dello Sport.

"The obstacle is Real Madrid, who are asking for too much in our opinion.

"But James wants to come to Napoli."

Mauro Icardi is one player who will not be joining Ancelotti's side, despite the striker being told he can leave Inter.

De Laurentiis acknowledged he enquired about the Argentina international, but found him to be set on joining Serie A champions Juventus, and the Napoli chief will not entertain a swap deal involving Lorenzo Insigne.

"[Icardi] will always want to go to Juventus," he said.

"Anyway, I prefer Insigne, because we need him, and then we have [Arkadiusz] Milik and [Dries] Mertens.

"We can't ignore Icardi's talent, he's a very strong player, but we've talked about him so much now that he looks older than 26."

Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti is hopeful James Rodriguez will sign for the Serie A club.

James has emerged as a transfer target for Napoli, who want to reunite the Colombia star with former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich boss Ancelotti.

The 27-year-old's future is uncertain after Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich opted not to take up a permanent transfer following a two-year loan deal from Madrid.

Amid ongoing speculation over James, Ancelotti told reporters: "I don't know if he'll come, but we hope so.

"I know him very well, he can play in all the midfield positions. I used him as a left winger, as a number 10 and or even on the right.

"His position on the pitch isn't a problem. He's adaptable, he can play in many positions.

"As for the number 10 shirt, the important thing is that he puts on the Azzurri jersey. His number isn't important. However, he needs time and patience."

Napoli are reportedly interested in taking James on loan, though Madrid want a permanent sale and €42million as they look to raise funds amid a busy transfer window.

While Napoli are favourites to sign James, LaLiga's Atletico Madrid are believed to be monitoring the situation.

Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti has spoken in glowing terms of the "true quality" of reported transfer targets James Rodriguez and Mauro Icardi.

Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis has confirmed Ancelotti would be keen to reunite with James, with whom he worked at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

The Colombia star's future is uncertain after his loan deal with Bayern ended and the option to make that move permanent was not taken up.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ancelotti said of James: "He is a player I know well and he is true quality.

"Unfortunately, he is not a Napoli player yet...maybe he never will be, or maybe he will!

"Let's talk about James once he becomes a Napoli player, as we do with other players. If today a manager from another club spoke about a Napoli player, I wouldn't be happy."

Napoli have also been linked with a move for Icardi, who has been told by Inter bosses he is not in their plans for the first season under new coach Antonio Conte.

They are reported to have offered the Argentina striker, who is also being linked with Juventus, a contract worth in the region of €7.5million per season.

"Icardi is a great player, held in high esteem by all of us, by me as well," said Ancelotti.

"All these names of such important players...it is positive they are mentioned next to us."

Ancelotti also spoke positively about his hopes for a new defensive partnership between Kalidou Koulibaly and new signing Kostas Manolas, with Raul Albiol having ended his six-year stay at the San Paolo by returning to Spain with Villarreal.

"From me and the entire Napoli community goes a big thanks to Albiol, who lived an important spell here at Napoli," he said. "He was very useful, a true professional and we will miss something there. But one of the best defenders on the market has arrived.

"Manolas is a formidable central defender and he will make a fantastic pair with Koulibaly. They will enable us to play a more aggressive football since we will be able to have a less deep defensive line."

James Rodriguez has been identified as a target by Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti and the club plan to contact his agent to discuss a move, according to chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The Colombia star's future is up in the air as his two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich looks set to end without the German club making the move permanent, while he does not appear to be counted on by those at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Juventus have all been linked with a swoop for James, but it seems Napoli will be the first to launch a bid after Ancelotti brought up the possibility of bringing the 27-year-old to Serie A.

"We have always said that we need two full-backs and one striker," De Laurentiis told Radio Kiss Kiss.

"James Rodriguez fits the image of what Carlo Ancelotti wants.

"I don't know how much he 100 per cent answers our needs, but we certainly can't put his skill in doubt. At a certain point one must then empower his coach.

"If he [Ancelotti] wants him for Napoli, it is because he knows how useful he [James] can be, even if he is very expensive. I said, 'let's go ahead'."

James, who is on international duty at the Copa America, said on Sunday that he is unsure where his future lies, but De Laurentiis confirmed he will be in touch with the player's agent, Jorge Mendes, to open discussions.

PSV winger Hirving Lozano is being considered as an alternative if a move for James falls through, though De Laurentiis made it clear the club cannot afford to buy both players.

"If I don't reach an agreement with Jorge Mendes, I'll talk to Mino Raiola about Hirving Lozano," De Laurentiis added. "We can't take them both.

"We already have a series of players we can't ignore. We have to sell first and then we can buy.

"Mendes is perhaps the best agent in the world today. He is also a friend. I think James will be very expensive, but if we have to make a sacrifice, we do it. For one player, you can do it."

Chelsea are seeking yet another manager in the Roman Abramovich era following Maurizio Sarri's switch to Serie A champions Juventus.

Frank Lampard is widely reported to be first choice to take charge at Stamford Bridge, with the former Chelsea midfielder set to return after a single season gathering managerial experience in the Championship with Derby County.

Sarri was far from universally popular with Chelsea fans despite winning the Europa League, reaching the EFL Cup final and finishing third in the Premier League.

But how does he compare with Chelsea's many other managers under Russian billionaire Abramovich? Omnisport crunches the Opta numbers to find out.


CLAUDIO RANIERI

When Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, Ranieri was the man in the Stamford Bridge dugout - but he left the following year. The genial Italian won 61 per cent of his matches in charge under Abramovich as Chelsea - who bought players including Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Claude Makelele, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo in a spending spree - finished second in the Premier League behind Arsenal's Invincibles. Chelsea also reached the semi-finals of the Champions League that year but Ranieri's decisions in a defeat to Monaco were questioned.


JOSE MOURINHO

Announcing himself as a "special one" on his arrival, Mourinho justified his own lofty billing by leading the club to the Premier League title, as well as the EFL Cup. They got to the last four of the Champions League again only to be beaten by Liverpool thanks to a controversial Luis Garcia goal. The Blues defended their Premier League title the next season but were unseated by Manchester United in 2006-07, although Mourinho led them to triumphs in both domestic cups. A poor start to 2007-08, including a Champions League draw at home to Rosenborg, saw Mourinho leave the club.

He returned in 2013 and Chelsea won the Premier League again in his second season in charge, as well as collecting another EFL Cup. But he left once more in December 2015, with his win ratio across both spells at the club, in all competitions, standing at an excellent 63.6 per cent.


AVRAM GRANT

In Mourinho's first spell at Stamford Bridge, Abramovich's appointment of Grant in a technical role reportedly led to tensions and the Israeli was then installed in the dugout. Despite being unpopular with fans, Grant steered Chelsea to the final of the EFL Cup, when they were beaten by Tottenham, and they finished second in the Premier League. Somewhat improbably, Grant's Chelsea also reached the Champions League final but they lost to Manchester United on penalties after John Terry's slip.


LUIZ FELIPE SCOLARI

Former Brazil boss Scolari, who led them to World Cup glory, failed to complete a single season at Chelsea as they sacked him in February 2009 citing "deteriorating" results. Scolari won just 55.6 per cent of his games in charge of Chelsea.


GUUS HIDDINK

Then-Russia coach Hiddink arrived as a temporary successor to Scolari and took Chelsea to the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they lost to Barcelona. They won the FA Cup final in his last game in charge but despite being popular with fans and players, he did not stay on.

Hiddink was a natural choice to return when Mourinho left a second time and a 12-game unbeaten run helped the Blues finish in the top half of the Premier League. Despite this, his win ratio across his two periods at Chelsea stands at just 53.1 per cent.


CARLO ANCELOTTI

Ancelotti arrived in 2009 and Chelsea pipped United to the Premier League title in his first season, adding the FA Cup to seal a domestic double. But United beat Chelsea in Europe and the Premier League in the following campaign and Ancelotti was dismissed even though his 61.5 per cent win ratio in all competitions was admirable.


ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS

Like Mourinho, Villas-Boas joined from Porto but he could not match his compatriot's success. With Chelsea outside the top four in the Premier League, he was sacked in March 2012 with a win ratio of 47.5 per cent - the lowest of any Blues boss in the Abramovich era.


ROBERTO DI MATTEO

Another temporary manager, Di Matteo moved up from being assistant to Villas-Boas and the Italian oversaw victory in the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Di Matteo also managed Chelsea to a remarkable defeat of Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League, then Didier Drogba's penalty in the shoot-out saw them beat Bayern Munich at their Allianz Arena home and claim the club's first European Cup.

Di Matteo was rewarded with a permanent contract but was dismissed after a Champions League group-stage loss to Juventus. His eight months in charge, while delivering two major trophies, yielded a win ratio of 57.1 per cent.


RAFAEL BENITEZ

Former Liverpool manager Benitez, whose win ratio was 58.3 per cent at Stamford Bridge, was another appointment that was unpopular with fans. But he secured Champions League qualification and more European silverware, with the Blues beating Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League final. 


ANTONIO CONTE

Another Italian, Conte took charge after successful periods at Juventus and Italy. They won the Premier League title in style in his first season but Conte left despite beating United in the FA Cup final in the following campaign. Conte's win ratio of 65.1 per cent at the club is second only to Grant and he will be a Serie A rival for Sarri next term as he has been appointed by Inter.


MAURIZIO SARRI

Sarri's style never won fans over but third place in the Premier League, coupled with an appearance in the EFL Cup final - overshadowed by Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to be substituted - and Europa League glory marked a successful single season. Sarri's 61.9 per cent win ratio at the club narrowly pips fellow Italian Ancelotti, who replaced him at Napoli last year.

Cristiano Ronaldo has told James Rodriguez to join Juventus, according to Lothar Matthaus.

James – who is currently preparing for Colombia's Copa America campaign – is set to leave Real Madrid this off-season.

The playmaker has spent the last two campaigns on loan at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, but will not extend his stay in Germany.

And Bayern great Matthaus believes the 27-year-old has his heart set on a move to Serie A, with James' former Madrid club-mate Ronaldo having instructed him to join Juve.

"I see him at Juventus," Matthaus told Spanish publication AS.

"We had a conversation two weeks ago, during the celebration of Bayern's Bundesliga win.

"He is very close to Ronaldo and told me that he was in contact with him and that he has told him that he wants to have him at Juventus.

"I understand why as James can serve Ronaldo so that he can score and the two of them can shine."

James signed for Madrid in 2014, on the back of starring for Colombia and winning the golden boot at the World Cup in Brazil.

Juve are not the only Italian club rumoured to be interested in the former Monaco player, with Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti, who was in charge of Los Blancos when James arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu, reportedly keen on his services.

Maurizio Sarri looks set to be appointed as Juve's coach, following Massimiliano Allegri's departure at the end of last season, with a compensation package reportedly agreed with Chelsea.

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