Fabio Quagliarella’s departure to Juventus was never going to be a quiet one. Leaving his hometown club just before the transfer window closes for one of their biggest rivals was never going to be a transfer that everyone was happy with. And there’s been plenty of mud slinging from both sides since former home-town hero left Napoli.
The Vesuviani have however had reasons to smile though during the international break. Although Leandro Rinaudo followed Quagliarella to Juventus, President Aurelio De Laurentiis has added the low-profile duo Emilson Cribari and Nicolao Dumitru to his ranks as replacements. The club was also minimally effected by the international break, with no representatives in the Italy squad, and only Marek Hamsik, Camilo Zuniga and Ezequiel Lavezzi playing for their countries. On top of that Diego Maradona, the favourite of the Partenopei and never far from the news, has been plotting his birthday party at the Stadio San Paolo!
Despite these positive factors there is no doubt that Napoli’s settled squad has been rocked by the sudden departure of hometown hero Quagliarella as the transfer window closed. If the Italian international expected the dust to settle quickly following his high-profile switch, he was sadly mistaken. His former coach at Napoli Walter Mazzarri coyly stated: “anyone who wanted to leave did so”.
Mazzarri said: “I asked the club to sign Edinson Cavani because the players must accept the mentality of a great club where three players compete for two places.”
“Napoli’s interests are the only ones that should count, otherwise we’ll never acheive greater success. I would have put them in competition with each other to get the best out of them. I wanted Quagliarella to stay. It’s not true that I no longer spoke to him.”
“I only said at the start of the season that I would be giving fewer explanations with regard to my decisions. Not just to Quagliarella, but to everybody. Whoever wasn’t happy with certain rules, could leave. And in the end, he left because he didn’t accept his role in this team.”
Quagliarella’s agent (presumably keen to salvage his own reputation as well as his client’s), hit back immediately. Beppe Bozzo said: “These are useless dramas and I said this to Napoli. We no longer want to speak about it.”
“Everyone played their part in this,” Bozzo continued, “and if Napoli never said yes, then the transfer would not have happened.”
“People need to be honest. Fabio is not a hypocrite or a traitor. If he moved club then it’s because directors and the Coach wanted it to happen.”
As if Napoli and Juventus matches aren’t fiery enough, the striker’s return to the San Paolo, only a couple of miles from his birthplace, with the Bianconeri will be explosive. It is certainly a match that both clubs – and probably the police force – will have one eye on already.
Quagliarella and Rinaudo’s defection to the Old Lady will presumably open the door for current squad members to step up, although De Laurentiis has quickly brought in back-up to compensate for their loss. Emilson Cribari is a Brazilian defender with plenty of Serie A experience, having previously played for Empoli and Udinese before Lazio, and arrives at Napoli for €500,000. Nicolao Dumitru, just 18 years old, has been snapped up from Empoli, where he has barely featured. The highly rated striker was born in Sweden but represents Italy at youth level.
As well as signing these two players, adding to the list of Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Lucarelli, Hassan Yebda and Jose Sosa as summer recruits, De Laurentiis has also been planning a birthday party.
Diego Maradona has sensationally asked to hold his 50th birthday bash at the San Paolo, where he achieved God-like status in the late-80s. Maradona had asked his former Napoli teammate Salvatore Bagni to arrange a match between Napoli’s two Scudetto winning sides to commemorate his birthday, and De Laurentiis had encouraged the idea. The event has hit a snag however, as the taxman has demanded that Maradona hands over his unpaid taxes if he returns to Italy. In his five years at Napoli Maradona was excused from paying tax, although this has clearly not been forgotten by the powers that be and the event remains in doubt.
After the creditable 1-1 draw with Fiorentina on the opening day, Napoli face Bari this week, who have already toppled Juventus. Quagliarella may be long gone, but Napoli have enough in the tank to pick up their first win of the season against the pugliese side.