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Hamsik calls time on legendary Napoli career, off to China

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Marek Hamsik has left Napoli for a big money deal with Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang.

Hamsik, 31, apologized to fans of the Neapolitan club and praised them for their support over 520 matches, which included 121 goals, 111 assists, two Italian Cups and one Italian Super Cup.

[ MORE: Icardi stripped of captaincy ]

He joins ex-Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco and former Benfica star Nicolas Gaitan on DL Yifang.

Still, the veteran is emotional about leaving Italy.

“Napoli. I got it tattooed on my skin, just like the first victory in the Italian Cup after 25 years. It’s impossible to forget that party. It’s impossible to forget the moment when I broke Bruscolotti’s record or when I beat Maradona’s goal record.”

Hamsek has 110 caps for Slovakia and definitely had more top-end time with him on the European stage, but felt the need for a rich new adventure. Napoli’s administration has made it clear there will always be a home for him, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he returned sooner rather than later.

 

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Napoli nel cuore 💙 Per prima cosa mi devo scusare con voi tifosi azzurri: volevo, speravo, sognavo di salutarvi con un grande giro di campo abbracciato dal vostro applauso. Mi avete sempre sostenuto e amato incondizionatamente nei momenti belli o difficili: di questo ve ne sarò sempre grato. “Napoli” ce l’ho tatuato sulla pelle: cosĂŹ come la prima vittoria in Coppa Italia dopo 25 anni. Impossibile dimenticare quella festa 💙 impossibile dimenticare il momento in cui ho battuto il record di presenze di Bruscolotti o quando ho superato il record di gol in maglia azzurra del DIO del calcio Diego Armando Maradona. Questo mi rende estremamente orgoglioso. Qui a Napoli sono nati i miei 3 figli, napoletani a tutti gli effetti ☺ Desidero ringraziare tutti: il Presidente che mi ha dato la possibilitĂ  di rimanere qui per 12 anni e che ha accettato la mia volontĂ  di provare una nuova esperienza; tutti gli allenatori che mi hanno allenato, ai quali devo la mia crescita come calciatore e come uomo; tutto lo staff medico, tecnico e la SocietĂ  Sportiva Calcio Napoli tutta; i miei amici, dei quali sentirò la mancanza, ma che so non mi abbandoneranno mai perchĂŠ sono parte della mia famiglia. Appena sarĂ  possibile spero mi concederete un ultimo giro di campo al San Paolo, per dedicarvi e ricevere il saluto che meritiamo. Vi amo e amerò questa cittĂ  per sempre. GRAZIE DI CUORE a tutti 💙 e un grandissimo in bocca al lupo ai miei compagni per il resto della stagione: spero riuscirete a vincere l’Europa League! #sempreforzanapoli💙

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Serie A: Inter tops Parma, Fiorentina, Napoli play to stalemate

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Inter Milan’s young Argentine attacker, Lautaro Martinez, notched another tally to his goal count as Inter Milan returned to the win column for the first time in four games.

Just two minutes from coming on, Martinez latched onto a pass in the box and fired a strike in for a goal, helping give Inter a 1-0 win over Parma. It’s Inter’s first Serie A win since before the winter break.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Parma nearly scored on two occasions in the first half, with Gervinho and Inglese going in on goal. On the other end, only Radja Nainggolan threatened the goal. Despite the win, Inter still has to worry about Mauro Icardi. The star Argentine attacker is now scoreless in his last four Serie A games.

Elsewhere, Napoli and Fiorentina played to a scoreless draw in front of a packed house in Florence. Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont played the hero, producing saves on Piotr Zielinski in each half. Both teams’ defenses held the opponent’s attack away from goal for long stretches, and in the end, the point is a positive one for Fiorentina. The Viola moves up into ninth place, one spot above Torino with 32 points.

Transfer rumor roundup: Allan to PSG, Meunier to Everton

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Paris Saint-Germain is at the heart of a trio of transfer rumors, including their long-term pursuit of Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.

Thomas Tuchel’s club is hoping to improve their midfield in a few ways, linked with Gueye, Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches, and Napoli’s Allan.

Everton’s play involves getting a big name player at Goodison Park, with the Toffees said to need Gueye and cash to pry Thomas Meunier away from PSG (and help with Financial Fair Play).

Meunier is two years younger than Gueye, 30-times capped by Belgium, and plays right back. Everton upgraded its left back spot with Lucas Digne in the summer, and 30-year-old captain Seamus Coleman currently mans right back.

PSG is also said to be hopeful of getting Allan for around $70 million. The 28-year-old Brazilian leads Napoli with 3.6 tackles per game and only Kalidou Koulibaly and Marek Hamsik have the ball more than Allan.

Sanches, 21, is the youngest of the bunch and has been used regularly as a sub for Niko Kovac’s Bavarians.

Calcio Mercato says Fulham, Newcastle United, and Cardiff City’s hopes for defensive reinforcements include Cameroonian defender Michael Ngadeu.

The 28-year-old Ngadeu has 18 months left on his contract at Slavia Prague, and is a regular for Cameroon.

And a former Newcastle man is being linked with a move back to the Premier League, as Rangers’ captain James Tavernier is said to be interesting Southampton to the tune of a $10 million purchase.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Serie A: Napoli draw means Juventus can go 11 points clear Sunday

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MILAN (AP) Napoli received a warmer welcome at the San Siro Stadium than it did during its previous visit which was marked by fan violence and racism.

[ FA CUPSETS: West Ham bounced by third-tier Wimbledon | Millwall oust Everton ]

Still, the southern club was subjected to territorial chants by AC Milan supporters during a 0-0 draw on Saturday in Serie A.

Napoli hardly seemed to notice the insulting chants, which emanated from the southern curve where Milan’s hard-core “ultra” fans sit.

“It was a completely different atmosphere,” Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “All the fans at the San Siro deserve to be applauded.”

Ancelotti was sent off in the closing minutes for protests after Napoli’s Fabian Ruiz was shown a questionable second yellow card.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Perisic to Arsenal; Gomez to West Ham ]

Both sides had chances and the possession was perfectly split between Napoli and Milan, who meet again on Tuesday in the same stadium for the Italian Cup quarterfinals.

An Inter Milan supporter died following fan clashes when Napoli last visited Milan in December — a match that was also marred by racist chants directed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

Napoli remained second, eight points behind Juventus, and Milan stayed fourth.

Napoli slams referee, Italian federation for Koulibaly ban

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Napoli has released a blistering statement condemning the referee’s actions from the 1-0 loss to Inter last month, and slammed the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) for its decision to uphold Koulibaly’s two-match suspension, which was handed down on Friday.

Napoli argued that the appeal was excessive given the racist abuse Koulibaly faced during the match along with the referee’s refusal to stop the match, a move which UEFA has since condemned. The FIGC denied the appeal, stating that a reduction of his suspension would set an unwanted precedent. If they had granted the appeal, “the presence of racist behavior in the stands could be used to justify any act by a player,” the appeals court claimed in its decision.

Napoli responded by calling the decision “extraordinary” and said “Koulibaly, football, and society all come out embarrassed by this decision. Reversing Koulibaly’s suspension had to be done regardless of the regulations and red tape. In this way, football dies, because football is above all things passion, a passion that unites billions of people all over the world, and that can not be mocked in this way.”

The lengthy statement was released in the aftermath of the failed appeal, lodged by Napoli with the hopes of reducing the defender’s two-match suspension he received for a red card near the end of the match against Inter. Koulibaly was sent off by referee Paolo Mazzoleni after sarcastically applauding a yellow card he received. Players on the field confirmed that Koulibaly asked the referee to stop the match due to the racist chants, but he refused.

“Koulibaly asked referee Mazzoleni to interrupt play,” Napoli explained in the statement, “and the official replied, ‘I won’t talk to you’ which contravenes everything the designator [Nicola] Rizzoli had told us during a recent meeting in Milan, which is that the request to interrupt play must come from either the captain or the player subjected to abuse.”

Napoli claimed that reducing Koulibaly’s suspension would be a decision that rose above legal precedent, instead setting a benchmark for decency and admitting there was wrongdoing. “Tonight a great opportunity has been missed. We have unfortunately confirmed that there is a lot to do and a lot to change.”

Inter did receive a two-match stadium ban as a punishment for the racial abuse by the home fans that led to the incident.