Napoli Sporting Director Mauro Meluso says that reduced playing time is “not retaliation” for midfielder Piotr Zielinski choosing to leave and join Inter Milan.

The Partenopei executive spoke to Italian broadcaster DAZN, via FCInterNews, after his team’s defeat against Atalanta earlier this evening.

Zielinski has made the decision to join Inter this summer when his contract with Napoli expires.

The Pole is still a Paretenopei player. But his deal runs out at the end of June.

And Zielinski rejected all of his current club’s offer of an extension in favour of leaving to join Inter.

This has put Zielinski, who is now in his eighth season as a Napoli player, in something of an odd position.

For much of his time, former Empoli and Udinese midfielder Zielinski has played a key role for Napoli.

But over the last few weeks, the 29-year-old has not found himself starting regularly.

The most pointed example of this was Zielinski’s absence from Napoli’s Champions League squad.

Napoli Sporting Director: Reduction In Playing Time “Not Retaliation” For Zielinski Joining Inter

The fact that Zielinski has suddenly featured much less prominently for Napoli once it became clear that he would be signing for Inter is hardly a coincidence.

But at the same time, the Polish international has still had his role to play.

This included coming off the bench this evening against Atalanta.

Even in spite of the fact that Napoli lost that match 0-3, Zielinski did have a positive impact with his second half substitute appearance.

Napoli Sporting Director Meluso said of Zielinski that “We didn’t make any a priori decision about him.”

The executive made a comparison, noting that “Milan won the Scudetto with Kessie going to the end of his contract.”

“Mbappe is at PSG until his contract expires. And he still plays.”

“We need to go beyond the customs of football,” Meluso said.

“With Zielinski, we haven’t been taking any attitude of retaliation. We’re not going against his wishes.”

“So much so that today he came off the bench and played,” the executive noted.

“The discussion we had with the coach was that meritocracy must always be the star that guides us,” Meluso added.