Ever since Rafa Benitez took charge at SSC Napoli, the Naples based club has splashed the cash. In a spending spree partly fueled by the sale of Edinson Cavani, the Partenopei remade their squad last off-season not only in an attempt to finally surpass Juventus atop Serie A, but also to make serious strides in Europe.
Napoli spent big, bringing in top talent to signal their seriousness and intent in terms of competing domestically and abroad. Among the new arrivals were world-class striker and ready-made Cavani replacement Gonzalo Higuain as well as two of Higuain’s former Real Madrid teammates, Spaniard’s Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol. In addition to the former Real trio, the Italian giants also brought in Belgian winger Dries Mertens and Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina (on loan). Further reinforcements who arrived over the winter transfer window included former Barcelona defender Henrique and Argentine international goalkeeper Mariano Andujar. Overall, the club spent north of 100 million euros on new players alone last year.
Logically, if a team spent 100 million euros on new players to improve upon a second place finish from the year before, one would pick them to win the league. That wasn’t the case. Initially thought to battle it out with Juventus for the title, Napoli were soon lapped by Roma in the Scudetto race and finished in a disappointing 3rd place (remember, they spent 100 million euros). Despite that, Napoli did rally to win the Coppa Italia, but their results in Europe weren’t as successful. They were placed in a tough group with Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. The Italians finished even on points with the English and German clubs, but lost out on goal differential. They would drop to the Europa League were achieved disappointment again, losing in the round of 16 to a Porto team in the midst of a down year.
Last off-season, Napoli spent money on par with the likes of Real Madrid, PSG and Manchester City. All of the previously listed clubs achieved more success than Partenopei, but all three had a little more talent to build on in the first place. Regardless, Napoli didn’t achieve the success it wanted last term.
This season has seen the Neapolitans struggle even more so. Despite additions that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million euros, Rafa Benitez’ team sits 7th in Serie A with a paltry 10 points. Already eight points off leaders Juventus, Napoli has lost games to Udinese and Chievo Verona. Last year Napoli finished 34 points higher than Udinese and more than doubled Chievo’s point total. Benitez’ squad also drew with recently promoted Palermo, conceding three goals in the process.
Thanks to a third place finish in Serie A, the Italians were forced to go through a Champions League qualifying round in order to make the competition proper. The team faced Atletico Bilbao, who they drew 1-1 in Naples before getting destroyed 3-1 in the return leg in Spain.
The moral of the story here is that spending big doesn’t always lead to winning big. Sure, Napoli might find success if they continually splashed a lot of cash every year like Manchester City, but that’s an extremely unsustainable and unrealistic method for a team who doesn’t have that kind of bankroll. And let’s be honest, few teams do. For whatever reason, Napoli haven’t been able to translate big spending into big winning. The team has aspirations of achieving major success in Europe and domestically, but for one reason or another the money hasn’t brought that.
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