Shrewd investment from Maurizio Sarri could bring the Scudetto to Napoli
By not splashing all of the Gonzalo Higuain money out on one player, Maurizio Sarri now has a squad that could mount a serious Scudetto challenge next season
With the recent victories over Lazio and Udinese all but securing a top three position, attention now turns to next season for Napoli.
When the club hit 67 points after 31 matches, the club equaled its best ever points haul after so many games, whilst at the same time playing some of the most attractive and entertaining football not only in Italy but across Europe. Clear progress has been made by Maurizio Sarri and all signs indicate that his team are ready to make a clear run for the title in the 2017-18 campaign.
Despite all the fan fare that surrounded it, when looking back at the Higuain transfer, Aurelio De Laurentiis did terrifically well to recoup €90 million for a player close to his 30th birthday. But the question was how to spend it? Sarri could have easily used the vast majority on a stellar name such as Alexander
Sarri could have easily used the vast majority on a stellar name such as Alexander Laczaette, Mauro Icardi or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Granted, this would have offset the loss of the record-breaking striker and there’s no doubt they would have delivered the goods. But instead, the tactician forked out €30 million on Arkadiusz Milik- a solid, yet unspectacular signing with the potential to grow.
The captures of Amadou Diawara, Marko Rog, Piotr Zielinski, Nikola Maksimovic, Lorenzo Tonelli and Leonardo Pavoletti all followed. These players each fit a similar profile to Milik and with them has brought Gli Azzurri a solid group of players with boundless potential and an appreciation of their coach’s methods.
There is the argument that the sudden invention of Dries Mertens as an effective No.9 was lucky on Sarri’s part. Nevertheless, it could be argued that this leaves the club with, arguably, even more striking depth than when Higuain was there – the league leading 75 goals evidence of this. Either side of the diminutive Belgian, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne have also enjoyed stellar seasons, with Insigne in particular finally evolving into the local hero the Neapolitan people hoped he would become.
It is in midfield where Sarri’s magic has really rubbed off though. Zielinski and Diawara were background figures in the earlier stages of this term, but after serving their Sarri apprenticeship it has now got to the point where there is no clear starter in the midfield positions.
It was almost unthinkable that the nailed down trident of Allan, Jorginho and Marek Hamsik would have been broken up last term, but the two youngsters are doing just that; something that will come in very handy with potential Champions League football squad management to contend with. Add in the recent emergence of Marko Rog and you have a set of midfielders with enough dynamism, athletic ability, and natural talent to be formidable at home and in Europe.
However, the Neapolitan’s may need to slightly repair their rearguard in order to take the club to the next level.
Despite being a loyal servant to the club, slight creeks have come into Raul Albiol’s game this term and a more reliable, fresher faced replacement would do the team no harm. Elsewhere in the backline; Kalidou Koulibaly, Elseid Hysaj and Faouzi Ghoulam have each proven for two seasons now that they’re perfectly suited to the team’s structure, with their games improving considerably under Sarri’s tutelage.
On top of this, the likes of Ivan Strinic, Christian Maggio, Maksimovic and Tonelli are more than able deputies if the case arises that players need a rest. One of the latter two may even negate the need to find an Albiol replacement.
In recent years, Napoli have always had a good starting XI, but by using the Higuain windfall astutely, they now have a good bench as well. With a tactician in possession of a clear identity and a young, talented squad with a year’s additional experience under their belt, there’s no reason why this team can’t bring the Scudetto back to the Mezzogiorno next term.