Napoli Review: watch out here we come!
By Marco Fumagalli
Aurelio De Laurentiis is more than a President; he's a great business man, and a great manager. He rebuilt and re-shaped Napoli, bringing the team from lower divisions to top flight. He implemented new rules without the temptation of doing everything too quick and too soon. He's not afraid of shark managers, and he created a solid team which has improved every year.
With the departure of Walter Mazzarri, he once again took the right choice. By bringing Rafa Benitez to Napoli, he gave an international image to the club which was able to attire top players such as Gonzalo Higuain - despite the departure of Serie A's best players Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavazzi in the past two seasons.
The team will have to face three competitions this season, again, to include Champions League and try to shake things up in order to dethrone Juventus in the National League.
Let's have a look at the squad for this season:
Goalkeeper. Vote 8/10
The departure of De Sanctis may seem strange as he still is a solid goalkeeper and goes to strenghten a direct rival such as Roma. However, the signing of Pepe Reina is a strategical one; he serves as an example for more international players to join the club. Benitez knows him well and will use his qualities in the changing room as a motivator. His ability in playing the ball with his feet may be more important than his blanks at ball handling between the posts.
The real deal for Napoli was transferring Rafael from Santos - who will probably be the goalkeeper of the near future - and will give visibility to the Club in Brazil. Roberto Colombro will probably be the third goalkeeper and won't get many minutes.
Defense. Vote 8/10
With Benitez, the defense will switch to 4 men in line after years of 3 with Mazzarri. The signing of Raul Albiol will bring solidity and replace the departure of Hugo Campagnaro, and Albiol should play with Miguel Britos in the center of the defense. Christian Maggio will start at right back - as he often does with the Italian national team - while Camilo Zuniga and Pablo Armero will share the task at left back. Paolo Cannavaro is more than a replacement and should get precious minutes in the rotation while Fredrico Fernandez has yet to show his value.
Midfield. Vote 9/10
The best department is probably the midfield, which is the key of the 4-2-3-1. Behrami, Inler and Dzemaili should rotate in the defensive midfielder positions; 3 quality players which can guarantee quantity to coach Benitez. In the center offensive midfielder position there is probably the best player in Italy at the moment: Marek Hamsik; this tactic seems to be perfect for him as he started the season with goals and top performances.
For the wings, Napoli has a great mix of experienced, talented and hungry players: old fox Goran Pandev, young star Insigne, newcomers Jose Callejon (who chose Napoli in order to play with continuity in order to have a change to be part of the Spanish squad for Brazil 2014) and Dries Mertens who PSV sold since their replacement, Bakkali, is even better.
Offense. Vote 9/10
Higuain is the starting center forward who should have no problems in Serie A and is expected to be the killer he was in Argentina and Spain; Duvan Zapata was signed to be his backup and has the talent to do well but may not be ready to play for the title if Higuain is not available.
Coach. Vote 8/10
Rafa Benitez is not a normal coach; he's extremely prepared. He's studied Serie A and is ready for the challenge, and he's also probably hungry for revenge after the unpleasant experience with Inter where he didn't have much support from management.
He's also a great positive motivator for the players, celebrating their qualities intramurus and with the press; he's the total opposite of Jose Mourinho who aims at making his players believe that everyone is against them, which includes press and match opponents.
Serie A: Second Place.
Champions League: Quarter Final.
Coppa Italia: Winner.
Possible Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1
Maggio - Albiol - Britos - Zuniga
Behrami - Inler
Callejon - Hamsik - Insigne