Osimhen 'feared racism' in Italy before joining Napoli

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Soccer ball (Photo by Francisco Estrada/LatinContent via Getty Images)
Soccer ball (Photo by Francisco Estrada/LatinContent via Getty Images)

New Napoli signing Victor Osimhen said Wednesday he had been sceptical before agreeing to join the Serie A club because of the racist reputation of some fans in Italy.

Napoli splashed out a club record fee of up to €80 million ($94.6 million) to sign the Nigeria forward from French outfit Lille.

"There was a bit of scepticism on my part, because the issue of racism is a problem that exists everywhere," Osimhen told journalists.

"Then I visited the city of Naples, saw the environment with my own eyes and realised that I am in a wonderful city.

"(Racism) is a worldwide issue. I'm sure I have chosen well and the Neapolitans will make me feel at home with their love."

Racism has been a recurring problem in Italian stadiums, including monkey noises directed at black players.

Last season Brescia's Italy international Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch after being targeted at Lazio and Hellas Verona.

But Osimhem said he had "always been convinced that Naples was the best choice for me both for the present and for the future.

"Both as a man and as a footballer."

Napoli's Senegalese international defender Kalidou Koulibaly has said that Osimhen had asked him about racism in Italy before joining the club.

"He called me, we talked about racism, I told him that coming to Naples he won't have these problems, he will choose the right city," Koulibaly told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I too felt the bitterness of the racist insult, but never in Naples. I reassured him, I told him that if he comes, he will have made the best choice."

The 21-year-old Osimhen was presented at the team's training camp in the central Abruzzo region, along with Albanian defender Amir Rrahmani, a new arrival from Hellas Verona.

But Italian striker Andrea Petagna, who signed from SPAL, was missing as he recovers from coronavirus.

Osimhen was one of the most expensive players in Serie A history, costing almost double Napoli's previous club record of around 40 million euros paid for Gonzalo Higuain in 2013 and Hirving Lozano last year.

"Playing with Napoli is a dream," he said.

"I thank (owner Aurelio) De Laurentiis and (coach Gennaro) Gattuso who immediately considered me as their son.

"I decided to accept the challenge with Napoli right after speaking with them.

"For a young player like me, having this warmth is essential."

Napoli finished seventh in Serie A last season and qualified for the Europa League after winning the Italian Cup, their first trophy in six years.

The new season in Italy kicks off on September 19.

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