In comparison with the returns of Massimiliano Allegri to Juventus and José Mourinho in Italy (at Roma), the succession of Antonio Conte at Inter entrusted to Simone Inzaghi or the bet Maurizio Sarri at Lazio, the appointment of Luciano Spalletti at the head of Napoli had made less noise.
Announced at the end of May, just after the officialization of the (finally aborted) departure of the former Naples coach Gennaro Gattuso at Fiorentina, this appointment is however the nice stroke of the start of the season: Naples is in the lead (with AC Milan) and still undefeated at the time of going to challenge the defending champion on Sunday (6 p.m.) during the 13th day.
And to think that « Lucio » seemed in semi-retirement since his ouster in May 2019 from Inter, to make way for Antonio Conte. A sidelined badly after taking the club at low tide in 2017 to bring it back to the Champions League after six years of famine.
He therefore did not give gifts: despite offers, he preferred to take advantage of his family by continuing to receive his salary from Inter until last June (more than 4 million euros per year, according to the press) , under an extension signed in 2018.
A standoff with Totti
During this parenthesis, Spalletti had plenty of time to watch on television a series retracing the end of Francesco Totti’s career (« Speravo de morì prima« , » I hoped to die before « ), in which the ex-Roma coach appears as the » villain « who deprived the legend of Giallorossi of a nice outing by leaving him regularly on the bench.
This showdown with Totti, during his second stint at Roma (2016-17), earned him a tenacious grudge from the Roman tifosi, who whistled him during his return to the Olimpico a month ago with Naples .
But it takes more to destabilize this experienced coach (62 years), returned to the front of the stage with Naples.
To seduce the difficult Naples, he played a sensitive chord with the supporters – « the tifosi of Naples, what you give them, they return it to you with the interests » – as with the players. Which remained on a huge failure: a draw at home on the last day of last season, which deprived Napoli of the Champions League, overtaken in extremis by Juventus.
« The first thing he told us was that he wanted to find the problem with this team because in his opinion it is not normal that we do not win, » said this week on DAZN defender Kalidou Koulibaly, whose eighth season at the foot of Vesuvius.
An iron defense
« It unlocked something mentally, if someone like him says that, it’s that we have qualities, » added the Senegalese defender, also welcoming the fact that Spalletti had « the humility to say that the work de Gattuso had been excellent « .
Conquered, too, the demanding president Aurelio De Laurentiis, whose relations with Gattuso were stormy: « he is a neat person, who manages things with firmness and with whom one can speak, who does not take offense if we ask him for some clarifications « .
And above all, « he makes the team play very well », welcomed the Neapolitan president.
With Spalletti, Napoli remain the great attacking team from last season, but with more control of the game and a system built to take advantage of the impact in front of Nigerian Victor Osimhen’s goal.
But she has also become a rock in defense, with only 4 goals conceded in 12 days. This iron defense will however pass a hell of a test against Inter, the best attack in Serie A (29 goals), as a prelude to an intense month which will see Napoli rub shoulders with Lazio by December 19, Atalanta and Milan.