I couldn’t stop eating mozzarella – I don’t blame the coach for benching me – Matuzalem

The Brazilian holds no grudges against his former coach for refusing to let him play when his love for cheese got out of hand

Former midfielder Matuzalem has revealed he was dropped to the bench at Napoli because he could not stop eating mozzarella.

The Brazilian spent two years at the Italian club and made 61 appearances, but he was regularly placed on the bench or left out of matchday squads entirely towards the end of his spell at Stadio San Paolo.

And the 39-year-old, now retired, says he does not blame coach Emiliano Mondonico, who took charge for Matuzalem’s second season, for refusing to play him after he put on weight from eating too much cheese.

“Mozzarella, my god! I couldn’t help it: I ate so much that I lost my physical condition and Mondonico began to keep me on the bench,” he told Gianluca Di Marzio .

“I don’t blame him, I was embarrassing.”

He added: “I was overjoyed [at Napoli], but completely unaware of the world I was in. As soon as I arrived there, I asked coach [Walter] Novellino: ‘When do we play against Juventus and Inter?’

“He replied: ‘You would do well to forget it, because we are still in Serie B’.

“Fortunately, the promotion would come at the end of the season.”

Matuzalem went on to play for a host of different clubs, including Lazio, Parma, Genoa, Real Zaragoza and Shakhtar Donetsk, where he won consecutive Ukrainian Premier League titles.

His longest spell at a single club was the five years he spent at Lazio, winning the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

Although he regrets not staying in the Italian capital for longer, he is happy with the way his life and career turned out.

“My time at Lazio could’ve lasted longer if I’d been more rigorous in my training,” he said.

“I would’ve liked to play in a World Cup too, but looking back over how my life could’ve gone, I can only be happy with the path I took.

“I won’t hide it: if it hadn’t been for that trial at Vitoria Bahia I would have ended up with many of my childhood friends – in jail or in the cemetery. We lived in a poor neighborhood, drugs and delinquency were on the agenda.”