Soccer-Napoli coach Spalletti to step aside after title triumph

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Bologna v Napoli - Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna, Italy - May 28, 2023 Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti REUTERS/Ciro De Luca/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) -Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti has asked to take a break from the game and won't be in charge of the newly crowned Serie A champions next season, he said on Monday.

Spalletti has just led Napoli to the Serie A title for the first time since 1990 but there has been speculation about whether he would stay on.

Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis had said on Sunday night that the coach had asked for a sabbatical and that he would not stand in his way and Spalletti confirmed the plan.

"Out of respect for the club I told De Laurentiis straightaway that I needed to take a year off," Italian news agency Ansa quoted Spalletti as saying on Monday.

"I'm a bit tired and want to spend time with my daughter Matilde," he added on the sidelines of a sports business conference.

Italian media speculated that former Spain national team coach Luis Enrique was the likely replacement for Spalletti. It was not clear what Spalletti, who is 64, would do after his break.

Napoli have run away with the Serie A title this season, upstaging their rivals from the wealthier north to win the league for the first time since the Diego Maradona era.

"Spalletti has been a really great coach, he's a free man, he's given a lot, I thank him and now it's right that he does what he wants to," De Laurentiis told a talk show on Rai TV on Sunday night.

Spalletti, who took charge of Napoli in 2021, had broken down in tears when Napoli clinched the title this month, paying tribute to his family and his brother who passed away four years ago.

He has coached a number of Italian clubs including AS Roma and Inter Milan, and spent five years with Russian club Zenit St Petersburg.

(Writing by Keith Weir, editing by Ed Osmond)

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