After missing out on the Champions League by five points last season, Napoli will be looking to go a step further this term after the audacious signing of Edinson Cavani.
Last Season: Sixth place is not an achievement to be scoffed at. After years out of the spotlight, Napoli missed out on the Champions League by just five points. A poor start under Roberto Donadoni was overturned by Walter Mazzarri, who organised Napoli into a functional yet unspectacular team.
2010 summer transfer campaign: There can be no question that Napoli have pulled off the biggest signing in Serie A so far this summer. Edinson Cavani’s arrival from Palermo will solve the issue of a clinical striker that saw President Aurelio De Laurentiis being linked with a host of players. Their €17m investment on Cavani represents a major coup as Inter were expected to sign him. Mazzarri looks set to keep faith with the vast majority of his existing squad for the forthcoming season, although there appears to be substance behind the rumours of veteran striker Cristiano Lucarelli arriving.
The Coach: Walter Mazzarri was handed the reigns last November after a less than impressive start to last season. He steered Napoli into the Europa League, a finish that the experienced boss had previously achieved at Sampdoria. How he plans to field Cavani alongside Fabio Quagliarella and Ezequiel Lavezzi remains an intriguing mystery.
Anchorman: Paolo Cannavaro will remain in the shadow of his illustrious elder brother to everyone except Napoli fans. The younger Cannavaro is their experienced captain, and the player who connects the club to their fanatical supporters. Paolo’s popularity for his gritty defending makes him the most important Cannavaro in the brothers’ hometown.
Playmaker: Marek Hamšik has been outstanding at Napoli for three years. His ability to create chances from midfield is second only to his ability to weigh in with goals. He was Napoli’s top scorer last season with 12, and will be integral again this campaign – unless one of Europe’s biggest clubs come knocking.
Hot Prospect: Luigi Vitale was a product of Napoli’s youth system. He spent a year on loan with Livorno last season where he experienced regular Serie A action, but now he is back with Mazzarri’s team. He will challenge Andrea Dossena for a place on the left of Napoli’s defence.
2010/11 prediction: Napoli will have to be realistic and see that a top four place is unlikely, with the Milanese duo, Roma, and a rejuvenated Juventus always the favourites. Napoli will be directly battling the likes of Sampdoria and Palermo to steal a Champions League place. The addition of Edinson Cavani from the Sicilian capital will give Napoli the edge, although it remains to be seen if they can challenge both domestically and in the Europa League. With a Coach who possesses experience of the top end of Serie A, Napoli may just be the most likely team to break the dominance of the big four.
Football Italiano’s prediction: 5th