fire attack and ‘Kvaradona’, how Naples put Europe at its feet

Best attack in the Champions League and leader of Serie A, Naples has defied all predictions for two months. His transfer window, however, announced the opposite.

See Naples and die. But not without suffering, for those who have the misfortune to venture to the Diego Armando Maradona stadium this season. After nine days of Serie A, Napoli, undefeated, is the leader with the best attack (22 goals). It is also the best attack in the Champions League halfway through the group stage (3 matches, 13 goals). Competition where the Italian club shocked with its victories over the last finalist Liverpool (4-1) and at Ajax Amsterdam (1-6). Autumn is coming, the dead leaves are piling up and all of Europe is asking itself a question: what is happening in Naples?

The last summer transfer window, however, augured a lean period for the Azzurri. Economically, it has been: according to the newspaper La Repubblica, Naples lowered its annual payroll by €38 million in the off-season. A will of the sulphurous president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, who imposed on his club to succeed. Winning bet. The departures of executives, even Neapolitan legends have been compensated, and even more than that.

Kvaratskhelia, symbol of Neapolitan ardor

Koulibaly is sold 40 M€ to Chelsea? Naples attracts promising South Korean defender Min-jae Kim (25), long courted by Rennes. Fabian Ruiz signs for PSG? The ex-Marseillais André-Frank Zambo Anguissa takes the lead, and the Frenchman Tanguy Ndombélé comes to lead his redemption. In attack, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens are packing their bags? Discover the great Italian hope Giacomo Raspadori (22 years old) and, above all, the Georgian nugget, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (21 years old).

« We were faster than Juventus, AS Roma and Real Sociedad“to attract Kvaratskhelia, mocked Cristiono Giuntoli, sporting director of Naples, in the Corriere dello Sport a month ago. The left winger, with a name rich in consonants, is nicknamed “Kvaradona” by the Italian press, in reference to a certain Argentine footballer. He electrifies fans with his dribbling, his vision of the game, his ambidexterity and even his defensive efforts. After 12 matches in Naples, he has 6 goals and 4 assists. « His versatility makes him an alien“, ignited his trainer, Luciano Spalletti.

Spalletti’s revenge

All this does not explain how Naples was able to trample its opponents so much in the Champions League, while remaining untouchable in the league, including with the defending champion, AC Milan (1-2 on September 18). In office for a year, Spalletti (63) has been able to adhere to a young group of precepts adapted to modern football. Naples is aggressive, presses high and relies on offensive transitions, which do not always start from their own surface. « It was Napoli who played like Ajax, the inventors of total football“, cheered the Gazzetta dello Sport. « Napoli don’t stop», was alarmed Tuttosport after the victory at Cremonese last Sunday (1-4), when the promoted had opened the scoring.

The Italian coach had spent two years without a club before joining Campania. At home, he suffers from a label: he has never won Serie A in almost a decade in the championship (Udinese, AS Roma, Inter Milan). A bit like Stefano Pioli (56), crowned with AC Milan not six months ago.

Of course, there is also a small set of circumstances. Liverpool are having a nightmarish start to the season, and Ajax at home had several starters absent. Napoli do not see themselves lifting the Champions League and will not ride on this euphoria all season. But after two months of competition, the facts are there: Napoli are scary, in Italy and elsewhere.

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