Napoli owner and president Aurelio de Laurentiis says the Italian club will avoid signing any more African players unless they agree not to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly – now at Premier League side Chelsea – and Cameroon midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa missed six Napoli games while on international duty at this year’s tournament, which took place in January and February.
“Enough of African players, or they should give up playing in the African Cup of Nations. I won’t be buying them any more for this reason,” De Laurentiis told a Wall Street Italia show.
Koulibaly and Zambo Anguissa missed Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Juventus in early January and the Coppa Italia defeat by Fiorentina, but the club then managed four league wins in their absence.
Meanwhile, Senegal won the Nations Cup for the first time, to spark wild celebrations back home, while host nation Cameroon finished third.
Koulibaly spent eight years at Napoli and responded to De Laurentiis’ comments by saying it is important to “respect everybody”.
“You cannot speak about African national teams like this,” the 31-centre-back told BBC Sport.
“You have to have respect, and as captain of Senegal it is not a good way to speak.
“If he thinks that the team can play without African players, it’s up to him. But I think not everybody has the same idea as him in the club, because I know their supporters and they don’t think like this.”