You never want to say that anything is guaranteed in football, but it’s looking awfully good for Napoli in the Serie A title race right now.
There’s an argument to be had that Napoli are the best team in Europe right now based on form and in order to get some more information we got in touch with Simone Eterno from Eurosport Italy.
“So impressive. Absolutely outstanding. Especially if you consider what the expectations were at the beginning of the season.” Eterno says of Napoli’s incredible performances in the 2022-23 season.
“Remember that in the summer it seemed that to pretty much everyone that it was an end of an era. Losing Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea), Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC), and the club’s all-time top-scorer Dries Mertens (Galatasaray) put Napoli in some kind of ‘transition’ season.
We could not have been more wrong. Luciano Spalletti has done a simply outstanding job putting together what Cristiano Giuntoli has bought for him on the field.
“If they will continue to go as they are doing so now, they will beak Serie A’s points record reached by Antonio Conte’s Juventus, 102 points, in the 2013/14 season.”
NAPLES, ITALY – MARCH 11: Amir Rrahmani of SSC Napoli celebrates with teammate Eljif Elmas after scoring the team’s second goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Atalanta BC at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on March 11, 2023 in Naples, Italy
Image credit: Eurosport
But what about in Europe? Famously, Juventus reached two Champions League finals in the middle of the 2010s but couldn’t quite get over the final hurdle.
No Italian team has won the Champions League since Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the 2009-10 seaso, and none have reached the final since Juve in 2017. Can Napoli buck the trend?
“I think this is a kind of ‘magical’ season where you cannot put limits on what a team can achieve.” Eterno says in response.
“Do you remember Leicester City? At a certain point they pushing for European qualification, but eventually everyone realised that they could actually win the league. And in the end, they won it.
“It could well be the same with Napoli. Serie A is effectively over: they won’t lose an 18-point advantage, but even more importantly, no team behind them will be able to win 12 games out of 12.
“So what they can do now is really start thinking about trying to go hard at the Champions League. In the group stage they proved to the whole of Europe that they are capable of playing some of the most intensive and attractive football of anyone.
“At home, they humiliated Liverpool; away, they did the same with Ajax. Then in Frankfurt the result could have been even better than it was given the chances they created. The team plays with this sort of ‘magic aura’ that they probably can’t replicate in the future. So the answers is: ‘Yes, pay attention, Europe! Napoli can really go all the way!’”
Eterno elaborated on his point, saying that in his opinion no team in Europe plays better football than Napoli right now. Plus he thinks there’s a chance that their success is being overshadowed by people focusing on the struggles of the more historical giants in Italy.
In my opinion, nobody plays better football than Napoli, nobody.
“Not Guardiola’s Manchester City. Not Ancelotti’s Real Madrid. Not Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich. Nobody plays a more intense, more entertaining and more successful – so far – brand of football than Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli.
“Then if you ask me ‘why’ nobody talks about them, particularly as a Champions League contender, then I cannot give you an answer I’m afraid.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia esulta con i compagni dopo il gol segnato durante Napoli-Atalanta – Serie A 2022-23
Image credit: Getty Images
“One possible explanation would be that the majority of people give more attention to the historical giants of the game; or that when someone thinks about Italy, they think of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. This combination is probably the reason why Napoli are being ignored so far.”
Eterno also hailed the incredible attacking duo of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as the best in the league, adding “They have this combination of joy in playing the game as well as hunger to score and win that is simply magical to watch. An unbelievable ‘intesa’, we would say in Italian.”
And what happens at the end of the season? Sadly despite the beautiful memories the team has created this year, Eterno does think they will break up in some form or another.
“I hope they won’t lose their stars. But I have to be realistic: Serie A is not a ‘final destination anymore for a lot of players.
“And Napoli, unfortunately for them, are not a ‘final team’. Both Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia will be attracted by the Premier League’s money or Real Madrid’s history, let’s be honest with ourselves.
“I think they will both probably be sold for a huge amount of money. And that’s the reason why Napoli should believe in themselves and push hard for the Champions League as well as the league: they won’t hit upon lightning in the bottle with players like this again. At least not immediately and not together. In my opinion this is ‘one season of magic’. But the kid inside me still hopes I’m wrong.”
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