After a 1-1 draw at Udinese on Thursday, the southern Italians can no longer be dislodged from the top. Memories are brought back to glorious times when Diego Maradona had previously won the only two championships.
In Udine, the outsider took the lead through former Austrian youth team player Sandi Lovric (13′), but Napoli’s star striker Victor Osimhen (52′) equalized shortly after the break. 12,000 Napoli fans were there, more than 50,000 watched the game live at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona at home. After that there was no holding back.
In 1987 and 1990, winning the “Scudetto” with a plus of three points over Juventus Turin and two points over Milan was a very close story. Quite the opposite of the current season: The Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli was only not in first place after the fourth and fifth round and did not experience a weak phase. 25 of 33 league games were won. 69 goals are the measure of all things in the league, just 23 goals against too. With such a balance sheet, only the title can show out in the end.
“Unit” with high market value
If you look at the market value, Napoli’s standing as number one comes as no surprise. With 629 million euros, the six-time Coppa Italia winner is well ahead of the competition, including Milan’s top clubs Milan (547) and Inter (534) as the first pursuers. The star figure is 24-year-old Nigerian striker Osimhen (27 competitive goals), whose value is more than 100 million euros. Similarly valuable is 22-year-old Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (85m). But also the defensive around captain Giovanni di Lorenzo is a showpiece.
“We are a unit, play with great enthusiasm and have fun on the pitch,” said Di Lorenzo, explaining the secret of the success of the club, which operates in a 3-5-2 system. Coach Spalletti has been in office since July 2021, after third place in his debut season, the big coup followed. “He doesn’t look at names, there are players in the starting XI who deserve it,” said Di Lorenzo. Napoli was also successful internationally. For the first time, they made it into the Champions League quarter-finals, where they narrowly beat Milan (0:1,1:1).
Sporty descent after Maradona departure
Thus, the UEFA Cup victory in 1989 remains the only European Cup triumph for the southern Italians. At that time, Maradona, who died on November 25, 2020, was still directing. The Argentinian legend, who came from FC Barcelona on June 30, 1984 for the then record sum of 13 billion lire (10.61 million euros), experienced his most glamorous time in club football in the southern Italian city on Vesuvius. As a solo artist, he twice led his average team to championship titles. On the other hand, the human depths of the superstar are accentuated in the city infiltrated by the Camorra. The public witnessed how the ball artist lost control of life.
Maradona left the club in 1991, after which things went downhill. In 2001, Napoli were relegated to Serie B, and after bankruptcy in 2004 with a debt of 67 million euros, the club was even forced into Serie C. Film producer Aurelio de Laurentiis bought the bankruptcy assets for 29.25 million euros, and the fans also remained loyal to Napoli . In July 2004, 40,000 supporters demonstrated in the stadium against the forced relegation, 15,000 season tickets were sold for the third division, in which the blue and whites sometimes attracted more than 60,000 spectators to the San Paolo stadium.
Several Austrians in Napoli dress
The restart succeeded. In 2006 Napoli managed to get promoted to Serie B, and in 2007 they returned to Serie A with the Austrian György Garics. The former defender worked for Napoli for two years until the summer of 2008. From the end of July 2009, Erwin Hoffer, another ex-Rapidler, played there, but the striker was not happy and did not get past eleven competitive appearances. In August 2013, the Napoli commitment came to an end after several loan stations. Previously, another Austrian, Fritz Kreutzer, had worn the Napoli dress in the 1926/27 season.