Unless you don't like football, or you live under a rock (which is basically the same thing, let's be honest) you probably recognise the team in the picture above. That is the Napoli 22-23 team, and recently, they have been TEARING APART other teams across domestic and international leagues. Once again if you barely know anything about the sport, or haven't watched football in a while, you will instantly notice that some of the more iconic players of the Napoli squad are not in the picture, such as Dries Mertens, or the ex-captain of the squad: Lorenzo Insigne. In this article I will tell you all about the new era of Neapolitan football, and what happened to the old squad.
The end of an era
Napoli have almost always been a successful team domestically, and even though their international success hasn't been as prominent, almost everyone has heard stories of a magnificent Diego Maradona leading the team to two Italian championships. Fast forward 30 years into the future, we saw the likes of world class players like Koulibaly, Insigne, Mertens, and Fabian Ruiz have their go at the same feat. However, after years of heavy investment and no real result, President Aurelio De Laurentis knew it was time for a change. Looking for a more sustainable model, all the top players exited the club, and went to other teams such as Toronto FC (Insigne), Galatasaray (Mertens), Chelsea (Koulibaly) and PSG (Fabian). Once the key players were gone, it was time for one man to shine: Maurizio Micheli.
New era on the horizon
Who even is Maurizio Micheli? You may be asking yourself that question. One common theme you will notice about Napoli’s squad this season is the age of the players. Most of them are very young, which makes you think about how they got there. The person responsible for that is exactly Mr. Micheli, Napoli’s top scout. In today's technological world, scouting is one of the deepest aspects of the sport, since there are a colossal number of different statistics that can be analyzed. It was like this that young stars were called up from all around Europe. To replace Koulibaly: Kim Min-jae, Korean defender from Fenerbahce. To replace Mertens and Insigne: Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone, from Sassuolo and Hellas Verona, respectively. And to replace Fabian: Frank Zambo-Anguissa, who arrived from Fulham. And last but definitely not least, the co-star of striker Victor Osimhen: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who left a Georgian club by the name of Dinamo Batumi and joined Napoli for the value of 15 million euros. His value now? Well, that would be 85 MILLION EUROS. Yes, you read that correctly. A 70 million boost in his value. But what is it that this Napoli team has really done?
Success at long last
After a 37 million euro drop in the overall wages and costs, Napoli was finally ready to take on the Serie A in search for their first title in over 3 decades. Led by the new youngsters, nobody expected a relatively unknown squad to fight for the Serie A. But what really happened was that they weren't fighting for the Serie A, only because after 15 rounds, they were top of the table with 8 points ahead of second place Milan! Newly nicknamed ‘Kvaradona’ quickly rose to fame together with the other stars of this team, as everyone was now keeping an eye on this magical squad. At the time that this article is being written, the Partenopei remain atop the table, now with a 14 point lead, while also having a game in hand to second place Lazio who lost 1-0 to Torino. With only seven matches left, everyone hopes that Napoli will prove their skill and achieve glory at long last.
However, this wasn't the only league where head coach Luciano Spaletti’s squad were able to catch eyes. Even though they were placed into a seemingly difficult group in the Champions League, with the likes of the previous year runners-up Liverpool, as well as Ajax and Rangers. However, this was no big deal for Napoli, as they went on to achieve first place and score 20, while only conceding 4 goals. A truly dominant campaign from the Azzurri saw them facing Frankfurt, who were also an easy matchup for Napoli, who won 5-0 on aggregate. Napoli seemed to have everything on their side, and many were already placing bets on them winning the Champions League, especially after the draw had them facing fellow Italian club AC Milan, who had crumbled in the Serie A. However, it was at this moment that luck started fading for Napoli, as injury prone Victor Osimhen had a left thigh injury over the international break. And soon after, in the Serie A, AC Milan and Napoli faced each other, with the result being 4x0 to Milan. A similar story happened in the Champions League with the aggregate being 2x1 in favour of Milan, ending any possible chances for Napoli of winning the CL, and heartbreaking millions of fans around the world.
Conclusion: What should we expect from this squad in the future?
Given the massive success of the squad this past year, there are only really two options on what can happen to the squad. Firstly, and more simply put, the top and key players will leave the squad heading for european giants who seek to improve their own squads with these players. After that, Napoli will once again enter the rebuilding stages and attempt to form another brilliant squad. On the other hand, many clubs could potentially be skeptical of the results of the team, since after all, they have only been together for a year. This means that they would not opt for the buyout clause in most players' contracts, and would actually wait and see if it is really worth it. The real question is: Are they going to be worth it? Personally, I believe that they will, but in a very different way that the players are now. What I mean by this is that I think that they will not be as dominant in the Serie A, since many teams will have studied them, and will know how to counter them. Despite this, I still believe that they will be a squad to be scared of, and I believe that their greatest success will be in international competitions, because of the newly gained experiences the team has acquired. Independently of what happens, I am sure we will al be keeping an eye out for the future of the players of this legendary Napoli team