Club Focus – Napoli – Above Expectations

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With a two week break for international fixtures to be played worldwide, Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli were able to enjoy a well-deserved rest. Taking stock of the season so far, albeit at a very early stage, Napoli should be nothing short of delighted. After six Serie A matches, they sit third in the league, two points behind the leaders. And after two Europa League group stage matches, they have recorded two draws, a steady start in an unfamiliar competition. Not to mention, summer acquisition Edinson Cavani is starting to look like one of the finest pieces of business in Italy, as he leads the scoring charts.
With no players representing Cesare Prandelli in the Italy squad, the amount of departures from the Stadio San Paolo for international matches was minimal. Marek Hamsik was in the Slovakia team that disappointingly lost to Armenia and drew with the Republic of Ireland. Juan Camilo Zuniga’s Colombia beat Ecuador and drew with the USA, and Swedish-born Niculae Dumitru was called up to the Italy U-20 team.
However, after scoring a hatful of goals for Napoli in both the league and Europe this season, it was Cavani who was the club’s most successful player in the international break. His Uruguay team, along with Walter Gargano, smashed Indonesia 7-0 and China 4-0. Almost predictably, Cavani registered a hat-trick in the first match, and one more in the second match.
The ex-Palermo hotshot has received rave reviews from around Italy for his contribution to Napoli’s excellent start of the season. Most recently, it was his captain Paolo Cannavaro who has been singing his praises.
“By goodness I hope that he keeps going like this,” Cannavaro said about Cavani’s eight goals in his first 10 league matches.
“Napoli buys men first, then footballers, so in a group like ours it’s easy to adapt.
“Edy is difficult to mark because he has great physical strength,” Cannavaro concluded.
While Cavani’s excellent form continues, another big-name striker has been quoted about his liking for Napolo. Mario Balotelli, the former Inter hot-head who joined Manchester City in the summer, is back in Italy receiving treatment for a knee injury. It seems the 20-year-old hasn’t completely cut his ties with Italy just yet.
Balotelli said: “I was in Naples for a week this summer and the affection that I got from the people can’t ever be compared with that towards me from elsewhere.
“I would like to send my own personal good luck to Napoli and their fans. They are a great team and this will be a great season.”
When asked if he would like to play for Napoli, he said: “Right now I am a Manchester City player and I am happy there.
“But in the future, never say never.
“I always carry the people of Napoli with me in my heart and the holidays I spent there were unforgettable. They were full of emotion,” he concluded.
Remarkably, Balotelli’s words were seconded by his agent shortly after. Napoli fans must be drooling about the prospect of Super Mario, although signing him from City anytime soon seems improbable.
Meanwhile, former Neapolitan hometown hero Ciro Ferrara has been advising the club about how to progress even further. Ferrara debuted for Napoli in 1984 before moving to Juventus 10 years later. He recently managed Juve, and has used his knowledge of their squad to try and aid Mazzarri’s team.
He claimed: “Napoli should sign Mohamed Sissoko. He is a great fighter, a player who knows how to make his presence felt in the middle of the pitch.
“Having had him in my team I can say that we are talking about a player who is also adapted to Walter Mazzarri’s system.”
Ferrara was reflecting on rumours Napoli are chasing Juve’s 25-year-old midfield powerhouse Sissoko, and negotiating a swap deal for Juan Camilo Zuniga. However, he is not the only player who is supposedly on Napoli’s radar.
Sampdoria’s Italy Under-21 striker Guido Marilungo has been interesting Mazzarri. Cristiano Lucarelli’s long-term knee injury means there is a space in the squad for a centre-forward, and Marilungo is currently out of favour at Sampdoria. A January bid is possibly in the reckoning.
Napoli’s well-earned rest comes to a welcome end this weekend, when they travel to Sicily to face Catania, who have also performed above expectations this season. All eyes will be on Serie A’s top scorer Cavani to continue his form.
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