Napoli boss Rafa Benitez has claimed Marek Hamsik’s importance to the Partenopei makes him "priceless" after welcoming the Slovakia star back from international duty.
Hamsik has underlined his value to a Napoli side regarded by many as serious Serie A title contenders this season by scoring four goals in the first two games of the season, and Benitez says it would be impossible to put a price on his head.
"If Gareth Bale is worth €100 million, then Marek Hamsik is priceless," Benitez told Mediaset. "If you name a price in this market, then there will be somebody who ends up offering it, so I’d say Hamsik is priceless because we don’t want to sell him."
Benitez has quickly made Hamsik the pivotal figure of a side he believes can challenge for honours at home and abroad this season. Although he still feels Juventus are favourites for the Scudetto and there are several clubs above Napoli in Europe, the man who guided Liverpool to an unlikely Champions League triumph is quietly confident his side can cause a stir this season.
"We don’t have to be afraid of anybody," Benitez said. "This is the mentality that I want to transmit to my players. We have a big squad to compete on all fronts."
Domestically, Benitez does not believe it will be a two-horse race for the title, saying: "Juventus have the advantage because they have won two years in a row, but many sides have strengthened and we just have to see if they will be very close or not at all close to the Bianconeri.
"I don’t think it’s just going to be Juve and Napoli for the whole season. There are other strong sides like Inter, Milan, Roma and Fiorentina." There are even stronger sides in Europe, and Benitez feels his side have drawn several of them in their Champions League group. Napoli begin their European campaign at home to Borussia Dortmund next Wednesday.
"We have one of the most difficult groups," Benitez said. "There are strong teams mixed in with weaker ones in the other groups, but in ours, you could win them all or lose them all. Starting against Borussia Dortmund is tough because they are the beaten finalists, but experience teaches me that if we get through the group stage, then anything can happen."