Napoli have not had a great start to the defence to their Serie A title so far in 2023/24, and Partenopei coach Rudi Garcia has strained relationships with a few players that played key roles under his predecessor Luciano Spalletti, notably star striker Victor Osimhen.

The Frenchman is at risk of losing his job after the Ciucciarelli suffered a 3-1 defeat to Fiorentina on Serie A Matchday 8, and he has been granted three matches to turn things around. However, his potential downhill might be due to his man-management skills, not just his tactical shortcomings.

La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that none of Osimhen, Matteo Politano, and Mario Rui not on good speaking terms with Garcia. All three performed key roles under Spalletti, especially Osimhen with his goalscoring exploits, but Garcia has mixed views on how to coach the trio in his Napoli team.

Garcia’s substitutions cause friction with Osimhen and Politano

A major factor in the strained relationships have been the substitutions by Garcia, which have been poorly timed or odd.

The Frenchman took off Osimhen in the 0-0 draw against Bologna on Serie A Matchday 5, much to the displeasure of the Nigerian striker. It was in this match that the 24-year-old failed to convert a penalty, and he was replaced by Giovanni Simeone when the game was still in the balance.

Napoli’s Victor Osimhen celebrates. [@sscnapoli]

Politano was baffled when he was taken off after 57 minutes for central midfielder Jens Cajuste in the defeat to Fiorentina. The score was 1-1 at the time, and Politano had been making an impact on the right wing. Osimhen himself was taken off in that game and looked visibly angered by the decision.

With these substitutions leaving many confused, it is no surprise that Garcia‘s choices have frustrated parts of the squad.

Mario Rui barely used under Garcia, Olivera preferred

One of the unsung heroes when Spalletti was Napoli coach, Mario Rui has been relegated to the bench under Garcia, who has made Mathias Olivera his starting left-back. The perception from the Portuguese defender and his agent is that the new coach wants to bring in his own ideas, and the 32-year-old has suffered as a result.

Mario Rui in action. (@sscnapoli)

Mario Rui has only started two competitive matches in 2023/24, and his last appearance was in the 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid on Champions League Matchday 2, when he came on with just two minutes remaining. The Portuguese veteran demonstrated under Spalletti that he was a tireless runner of the left flank, and he had a no-nonsense style of defending.

Garcia has been wanting to stamp his own mark on this Napoli squad, but it is backfiring on him, and it is impacting the results. By alienating those who were fundamental to the 2022/23 Serie A title success, he is bring on his own demise in Naples.