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 By Ben Gladwell

Maradona defends Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain against 'overweight' jibe

Diego Maradona has hit out at Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis' claim that Gonzalo Higuain is overweight.

De Laurentiis said that his club's Argentinean striker needed to "shed one and a half kilos, which is the weight of a brick," after he went three weeks without scoring, adding that the "goals will return once he rediscovers his splendid physical shape of a month ago."

The 28-year-old ended his drought in Monday night's 1-1 draw with Fiorentina and De Laurentiis tweeted that his words had "probably stimulated Higuain" into scoring again.

However Maradona, who inspired Napoli to Serie A glory in 1987, disagrees. "I'm with Higuain on this," he told Neapolitan television channel Piuenne. "He can talk about his side's form, but he can't talk about the players - that's [coach Maurizio] Sarri's job.

"He could have avoided saying what he did about his weight. You can't tread on people's toes like that, otherwise things don't go well.

"It wasn't a good idea to say that in public before a match. If at all, he could have said it to him in private."

Gonzalo Higuain
Higuain is Serie A's top scorer this season.

Maradona has been one of the most vociferous critics of Sarri after Napoli made a poor start to the season.

He said that the former Empoli coach was "not the right coach for a winning Napoli" and said that by appointing him, Napoli had given him a "huge birthday present."

Maradona, 55, has since clarified his remarks about Sarri, 57, saying: "I never said bad things about Maurizio, I have the utmost respect for him.

"And that's not just now that he's doing well, but it was also [the case] before. All I meant was that he had to learn how to get the most out of the team.

"He didn't have control over the dressing room back then, but its different today and you can see how everybody on the field knows what the coach wants. The draw at home to Milan was a missed opportunity, though.

"Sarri's formed a team which are playing good football. I'd like to thank him for the way he replied [to my criticism] -- most people try to get one over on me, but he showed respect."

Napoli currently trail Serie A leaders Juventus by three points with 11 games of the season remaining. They are five points ahead of third-placed Roma and on course for qualification for the Champions League next season, although they were knocked out of the Europa League by Villarreal last week.

Higuain is Serie A's top-scorer with 25 goals -- 12 more than his closest rivals Paulo Dybala and Carlos Bacca.


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