BARCELONA: Gennaro Gattuso was renowned in his playing days for his combative style, grit and determination but, as a coach, he believes his Napoli side are showing other qualities - even if nobody has noticed.
"It takes time to get rid of a label, but that doesn't matter," the fiery former midfielder told a virtual press conference on the eve of the Champions League round of 16 second leg at Barcelona.
"You just have to be able to read the data and the numbers. Maybe in Italy, we don't know how to do this and people want highlight my name," he said, referring to his nickname Rino which means growl. "But the numbers say otherwise."
"If the tactical organisation is mistaken for defensiveness, it's not my problem," he added. "I did important things as a player but with totally different characteristics to what I'm looking for today as a coach."
He pointed out that his side have improved in possession and are the team that dribbles the most in Serie A.
Gattuso took over in Napoli in December with the side in disarray but has reversed their fortunes in the last few weeks. They won the Coppa Italia in June, the first major trophy of his coaching career, and finished seventh in Serie A after an impressive finale.
Still, he recognised that his side, who were held 1-1 in the first leg in February before the COVID-19 outbreak, had a mountain to climb in Saturday's match.
"I mustn't make the team tense," he said. "I'll talk to them tomorrow. But I always say you have to remember where you started, the story you wrote yourself. That's how I've always seen it."
"Before you reach this level, there is the neighbourhood, the beach, the first kick of the ball, the youth teams and everything else. It won't hurt my players to remember this."
(Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)