No spending, no tours, no drama, just hard work. That has been the ethos of Napoli this summer as the club looks to launch an assault on the Serie A title
In a transfer market that has become a race about who spends the most, imagine a club that basically has the same starting eleven and first substitutes as the past season, maybe even the past two.
In Serie A, Napoli are ready to show the importance of playing as a team and staying together for years, knowing one another, having that consistency that can make a difference. With a brand new AC Milan, a rejuvenated Juventus, an enigmatic Inter, a re-worked Roma, the Partenopei could be the ones to smile come May.
Coach Maurizio Sarri has made it clear: no grand tours, no heavy spending, very few new players. Everyone closed up in Dimaro near Naples and just one thing was on the agenda: hard work. A lot of hard work. Napoli’s starting eleven against Nice in the first leg of the Champions League playoff – which the Partenopei won 2-0 – had not one new signing.
The same eleven as last year, that one can repeat like a poem: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne. And what about the substitutes? Piotr Zielinski, Marko Rog and Arkadiusz Milik. Everyone was there already 12 months ago.
The more a team plays together – if things do work out – the better. Everyone will agree with this. But for Sarri, it is a way of life. Training to improve the players. And improve the way they play together. It is fair to say Napoli play one of the best styles in the game. Now it is a matter of achieving results. A second place and a third spot in two seasons under the former Empoli coach. The Scudetto is now within reach.
Players like Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik have reached their career peak, others, like Lorenzo Insigne, are getting there. The team, fans, club and city are ready to win the title. The race will be difficult, but it is possible.
Essentially, all the other contenders have changed a lot, Juventus losing Leonardo Bonucci, one of the main stars. Undoubtedly, the Bianconeri remain clear favourites, despite Milan’s exciting signings and Napoli’s consistency. The winning mentality there is still key. But finally there are other teams in Serie A who could take advantage if Juventus do slip-up, and Napoli seem to be the main one.
The feeling is that if the team maintains the rhythm as last season, then the title can be theirs. Winning the big games against Juve will be key, and most of all not dropping points against smaller clubs. Again: consistency. The crucial thing in football.
Napoli have set the basis for a memorable season, starting with gaining access to the Champions League group stages. The result at the San Paolo seems enough to stay safe in the return leg at the Allianz Riviera in Nice. Securing regular Champions League football is a fundamental step for the Partenopei.
With that economic security, as well as Sarri’s knowledge and the players willingness to stay together, Napoli can dream big, be it this season or next. Napoli are showing everybody that football is not just about who spends the most.