ITALY: The future of Napoli


Not too long ago, Walter Mazzarri left the Napoli manager’s role in order to replace Andrea Stramaccioni at Inter, who had failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in 15 years. 

Mazzarri had a good four years in charge of the south Italian club, bringing them Champions League football and Napoli’s first piece of major silverware since the times of Diego Maradona, with a Coppa Italia. He got Napoli to be one of the best and entertaining sides In Italy, and arguably Europe, with his attacking variations of 3-4-3/3-5-2 and with 2 of the most sought after players in Europe, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edison Cavani, Furthermore Marek Hamšík has certainly showed his quality in Mazzarri’s reign at Napoli. However, in football nowadays 4 years at a club seems like a decade, and with Mazzarri becoming worn out at Napoli and hinting he would leave, the time finally came for him to move on. This last season was a stressful but successful one for Napoli, one minute fighting for the Scudetto and the next for third place, having wasted quite a few chances to close the gap on Juventus whenever the Bianconeri slipped up.

With Mazzarri having left, the well respected (by some) and experienced coach Rafa Benitez took over. Benitez’ knowledge of the European game should suit Napoli well, having managed at Valencia and Inter, and winning the then UEFA cup at Valencia. His spell at Inter wasn’t all that successful, being fired after six months after falling to sixth in the league, all though he did win the SuperCoppa Italia (equivalent of the community shield) and the Club World Championship. I would call those six months a good learning process of the Italian game, as it does take time to comprehend how the game is played in Italy and adapt to that. This was the same even for Mourinho, with some viewing his first season at Inter as disappointing. But I guess Moratti was a bit more patient with the special one.

Another reason I think Benitez will be a success at Napoli is that the will understand the city and their passion for football and the fans will support and respect him at the start of the season, unlike at Chelsea.

It will be interesting to see what Benitez does at Napoli. As things stands, he’ll have Cavani, whom he is very keen to keep hold off(Who wouldn’t be!) Hamsik and Insigne who he may look to build the team around. However, if Benitez decides to play his usual 4-2-3-1, Changes will be needed to be made. I would say the main change would be the players adapting and understanding the system after 4 years of 3-4-3. The side probably wouldn’t need a whole revamp as Maggio and Zuniga could play at full back. Full back would be the main problem for Benitez if he went to 4-2-3-1 as Maggio and Zuniga are more used to playing as wing-backs, which could see Napoli exploited.

I think that Benitez will go to a 4-2-3-1, as he’s had success with that formation and with development and growth changes are needed. I’m not sure what will happen with the full-backs, but unless Napoli really want to impose themselves, I expect a signing in the defensive/full-back department. It’s interesting to hear Napoli have been linked with PSV winger Mertens, as that would suite a 4-2-31/4-3-3. Benitez has spoken positively about Insigne, and I think he, and Mertens(if he came) could offer the right support and fluidity for Cavani to work well with. Insigne has already had a good season and can grow even more next season.

Speaking of Cavani I reckon he’ll stay at Napoli next season. Napoli aren’t as bad financially as they used to be and even Manchester City are reluctant to pay his release fee. I also think he could be persuaded to stay by the fact he is one season’s worth of goals away (12) from breaking the Napoli goal scoring record, set by Maradona himself. Maradona was Napoli’s idol and emblem, for their culture, their football. When Italy played Argentina in the 1990 world cup, Most of the Naples fan cheered on Maradona and Argentina against their ‘home nation’ Italy, as they’ve always felt very excluded by the rest of Italy-especially the North. This just shows what Cavani could become at Napoli. Cavani is already an idol at Napoli, but he would lay immortal if he stayed and surpassed ‘El diego’ in the goal-scoring charts.

I think this season may be a bit too early for Napoli to win the Scudetto and achieve success in Europe. Next year or two years time could be their peek. But you never know in football.


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