Will there be a Neapolitan night to remember as Napoli chase the Scudetto?
By Daniel Barratt
Having last won the Scudetto in the 1989/90 Serie A campaign, Napoli will be looking to finally end their draught by winning their first league title in 31 years. Napoli currently sit top of the Serie A table having played 14 games, 3 points clear of second place AC Milan and 4 points clear of third place Inter Milan, but what does history tell us about Napoli?
Since promotion to Serie A in 2006/07 having spent 6 years outside the Italian topflight, Napoli have been on an upwards trajectory with the club aiming to return to the glory days of the 80s, the decade in which Napoli won their first and second ever league titles in 1986/87 and 1989/90, led by none other than footballing great and icon of Naples Diego Maradona.
In their first season back in the topflight of Italy, Napoli finished 8th in Serie A comfortably ensuring their safety under manager Edoardo Reja, but also bringing European football back to Naples having qualified for the Europa League. The following season, Napoli finished 10th in Serie A and elimination from the Europa League leading to the sacking of Edoardo Reja on March 8th. Reja was replaced by Roberto Donadoni who went on to maintain Napoli’s record of a second consecutive top half finish in Serie A since their promotion in 2006/07.
Napoli continued their progression throughout the 2009/10 Serie A campaign where the Neapolitan side finished inside the top 6 for the first time since 1994. In the process Napoli also qualified for the Europa League again, the start of a run of European Qualification which is still active today in 2021, competing in both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League throughout this time.
Over the course of the next few seasons, Napoli became a mainstay in the top 6 of Serie A competing for not only UEFA Champions League qualification but the league title on multiple occasions. Napoli’s league position fluctuated throughout the top 6 during this period as the Neapolitan side finished 3rd in Serie A in the 2010/11. The following season saw Napoli fall back to 5th in 2011/12 before rising back up to second in 2012/13 as Napoli endured their first title race with Juventus.
This continued over the next 6 years as Napoli’s rise to the top continued. Throughout this 6-year period, Napoli stayed within the top 3 of Italy as they battled the likes of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan for the Scudetto.
Having had the likes of Ezequeil Lavezzi, Edison Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens over the years Napoli have always fallen short of winning Serie A, however in 2021 the Neapolitan club have their biggest opportunity yet.
14 games gone Napoli sit top of Serie A table, 3 points clear of second place AC Milan and 4 points clear of third place Inter Milan. Club record goal scorer Dries Mertens is in fine form having scored twice at the weekend in Napoli’s 4-0 win against Lazio, also managed by former Napoli boss Mauricio Sarri.
Juventus, the club who had always enabled Napoli from winning their first Scudetto since the 80s are currently slumped in 7th in Serie A as Juventus endure a rocky period both on and off the pitch. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, the sacking of legend Andrea Pirlo and exterior pressure being put on Juventus Chairperson Andrea Agnelli continue to dominate the headlines for all the wrong reasons leaving Napoli with their biggest opportunity to bring the Scudetto back to Naples. If Luciano Spalletti’s men can achieve this, they’ll be doing it in the name of Diego Maradona.