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Dec 31, 2013

Guidolin plays down Norwich link

Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin has rubbished rumours linking him with Norwich City, saying instead that he is focused on his side's next game with Hellas Verona.

Guidolin believes an 18-team Serie A would help revamp the Coppa Italia
Francesco Guidolin has only eyes for Udinese.

Guidolin has been in charge of the Zebrette for three and a half years, leading them to top-five finishes each season. They only narrowly missed out on a place in the Champions League last term, losing in a playoff to Sporting Braga in a penalty shootout at the Stadio Friuli.

He previously led Palermo into the UEFA Cup and has developed a strong reputation for getting the best out of smaller clubs on limited budgets, identifying and nurturing talented young players and bringing them through into the first team before selling them on for a profit.

Unsurprisingly he is not short on job offers and, although he insists he has not received one from the Premier League, he insists he is only focused on lifting Udinese up the table in 2014.

"They're just rumours and we could really do without them now," he said at a news conference. "My only thought is on our next game against Verona. I'm not thinking of anything else."

It has been a very pensive Guidolin over the Christmas break with things not necessarily going well for his side this season. He nevertheless looks back on 2013 with pride.

"It was extraordinarily beautiful," Guidolin said on Monday. "To get 62 points for such a small club is not normal. In fact, it hardly ever happens. I'm proud and can look to the future with a bit of faith and optimism, even if we know well that all those points we got no longer count. What counts now are the points we have yet to pick up."

Guidolin's mood has changed markedly since he offered to resign several weeks before Christmas, off the back of a 2-0 home defeat to Torino. That is now water under the bridge as the 58-year-old instead looks ahead.

"History does not always repeat itself, but my hope for the team, the club and the fans is that we manage to play another good second half to the season," he said. "We've managed that in the past three years. Let's hope we can end the first half of the season well and then get off on the right foot in the second half. I expect the team to show what they can do and win points playing good football."

For that, Guidolin is also hoping for more from striker Antonio Di Natale, who has scored only four times so far this season and is the club's joint top-scorer with defender Thomas Heurtaux.

"Before criticising him, you've got to remember what he did up to a month ago, and that is part of this club's history," Guidolin said. "Toto is a mature, strong man and he knows what his responsibilities are. I think it's just a moment which will pass. Of course I expect more from him, but I expect more from the whole team, not just from him."

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