Giuseppe Mascara brought eight years of service to Catania to an end in January when he signed for Napoli. Many eyebrows would have been raised when the deal was finalised as Mascara was leaving behind his spot as the Elefanti’s talisman to inevitably sit on the bench for six months with a high-flying Azzurri. It was a mystery as to how Walter Mazzarri’s side would employ the services of the striker. However, with a price tag of just €1.2 million for such a talented player, it was a bargain which could not be passed up as Mascara looks to a signing for the future.
The Sardinian had been a key player for Catania since signing for them in 2003 and at 31-years-old the captain attracted the interest of title challengers Napoli and the lure of title hopes and Champions League football was enough to persuade the striker to agree to the move. Catania could either let their skipper leave for €1.2million in January or risk losing him for free six months later. Mascara was only afforded a place on the Napoli bench for the remainder of the season. The striker made four league starts for his new side, emerging from the bench 10 times and netting three goals for the Partenopei since his arrival.
The number nine has never been a prolific scorer, if anything, last season was one of his more prosperous seasons in terms of banging them in but it is not his goalscoring abilities which make the Italian such an important player. Mascara is a leader on the pitch and an inspiration to players around him. Catania had a talented squad full of fantastic individuals but it was their illustrious captain who pulled the strings and had them playing as a team. The striker, who has been capped just once for his country, linked the midfield up perfectly with frontmen Maxi Lopez and Takayuki Morimoto.
As Napoli were mounting such a strong challenge on the Scudetto coach Walter Mazzarri was reluctant to tamper with the camaraderie and solidarity which had developed within the Azzurri camp, refusing to allow any key players to leave the Stadio San Paolo during the winter transfer window. The only changes the 49-year-old was willing to make was the selling of three lesser players and the acquisition of Victor Ruiz and Mascara. His tactics off the field were as spot on as his tactics on it.
With Napoli vying for the title against Milan and Edinson Cavani scoring goals for fun, Mascara was always going to be a bit part player for the remainder of the 2010/11 season at Napoli as there was no need for any changes to the first-team – if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Mascara will be given a fresh start and another opportunity to break into the Napoli team as we approach the new campaign. Playing alongside incredible talents alongside Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani, Walter Gargano, Cristian Maggio and the lynchpin Paolo Cannavaro means he will not be as vital to Napoli as he was to Catania but the forward will still play a major role in the team.
At 31, Mascara shows no signs of slowing down, he is the epitome of a team player and has a great effect on those around him. We saw glimpses of what Mascara can do for Napoli towards the end of last season as he was able to fill the void left by the suspended Edinson Cavani but the former Palermo forward is versatile and talented enough to start alongside Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani in order to bolster the Napoli attack as they look to improve on their incredibly successful 2010/11 season, challenge for the league title once more and battle against Europe’s elite in the Champions League.