Napoli, like other Serie A teams, put together a strong set of moves in the summer transfer window. However, unlike its Italian rivals, Napoli dealt with losing icons of the club. Whether those be aging stars or important players in the now, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis and his team worked wonders to create a competitive squad despite the departures.
Although it is early, Napoli sits atop the Serie A table with two dominant wins from two games. New arrivals and tenured players alike are scoring for fun, as Napoli has nine goals combined in those two games. Here is how Laurentiis and Luciano Spalletti put together another competitive side in a Serie A season riddled with parity.
Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens are legends for Napoli. The pair are the top two names on Napoli’s all-time scoring chart. Moreover, they rank in the top five for all-time appearances with the club. In the summer of 2022, both departed on free transfers. Mertens stayed in Europe, moving to Galatasaray in Turkey. Insigne was one of MLS’s big signings, opting for Toronto FC.
Those two players are perhaps past their prime at the ages of 31 for Insigne and 35 for Mertens. Two players in their prime currently also left Napoli. Kalidou Koulibaly, one of the most sought-after names in world soccer over the last several years, finally made a move to England with Chelsea. Fabian Ruiz, arguably the club’s best midfielder, looks set to join PSG, if rumors are to be believed. His deal potentially includes a player swap with Keylor Navas coming to Italy.
Navas replaces David Ospina, the longtime goalie for the Patenopei, who now earns big money in Saudi Arabia.
Pressure starting to build:
That is five key players out the door in one transfer window for Napoli. On that alone, most clubs heavily lower expectations and prepare for something of a rebuild over the next season or two.
Last season’s feat of third in Serie A is a tall task any year. Given Napoli’s losses and the transfer windows from clubs like Roma, Juventus and the two Milan clubs, that achievement looked harder to match.
Fans and pundits grew frustrated with Napoli as Juventus brought over Angel Di Maria, Paul Pogba and Filip Kostic. Inter reacquired Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea while bringing in the Belgian’s former teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The defending Scudetto winners got Liverpool’s cult hero Divock Origi and a promising defender in Charles de Ketelaere. Roma made a major splash as well, with Nemanja Matic, Zeki Celik, Georgino Wijnaldum and Paulo Dybala arriving in the capital.
Clearly, the early odds stacked against Napoli. The club lacked serious and known names coming in to repair the losses across the pitch.
Napoli’s first key signing in the summer transfer window
On the contrary, Aurelio De Laurentiis got to work. Early in the summer, the Napoli president brought in an unheard of name in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The 21 year-old Georgian winger is a natural replacement to Insigne. Immediately, many questioned the replacement and his ability to replicate Insigne’s impressive output with Gli Azzurri. After all, Insigne was the club captain for four whole seasons.
On matchday 1, Napoli thrilled in a 5-2 win at Hellas Verona. Immediately, Kvaratkhelia made himself known. His masterclass performance included a goal and an assist in his debut game.
A week later, he again continued to impress. He dropped another masterpiece for his debut at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, grabbing himself a brace in Napoli’s 4-0 win against newly promoted Monza.
New transfers in
Following their first win, Napoli announced new signings in the summer transfer window. Giovanni Simeone arrived from Hellas Verona on loan. Same goes for Tanguy Ndombele from Tottenham and 22 year-old forward Giacomo Raspadori from Sassuolo. The latter is Napoli’s big move to replace Dries Mertens.
Prior to that, the Italian club also signed two central defenders to fill in the void of losing Koulibaly. Leo Ostigard comes from Brighton & Hove Albion, and Min-Jae Kim was the most-expensive Napoli signing this summer transfer window from Turkish club Fenerbahce. Kim was spectacular on his Serie A debut, putting out a strong and solid performance which was followed by a Napoli clean-sheet and first club goal against Monza.
Smart business potentially creating title challengers
Napoli accomplished all this while cutting the club’s wage bill by 27%. In doing so, the average squad age fell a full year from 26.7 to 25.7. The Partenopei had a very healthy start to their Serie A season campaign even without the latest three signings: Simeone, Ndombele and Raspadori.
Reports suggest that Napoli’s summer transfer market is not over yet as the search for GK still remains. Most likely options to replace Alex Meret the aforementioned Keylor Navas, should that deal hold true. Another option is Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Regardless, Napoli look strong and very capable of challenging for top four or even more. Over recent years, many wrote the club off in that fight. Now, it seems Napoli is all in to go for it in 2022/23.
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