Napoli–The rise of the Phoenix…watch out Chelsea!

Stadio San Paolo

Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli is a football club that has a rich history. Many football fans will have heard of Napoli again after their recent success and qualification for the Champions League. The older fans amongst you will remember Napoli’s glory years that were spearheaded by one of the world’s greatest players, Maradona. As they line up tonight against Chelsea, the club can finally feel as though it has turned the corner and laid a troubled past to rest.

Napoli have been one of the top sides of Italian football at various points throughout history; during the late 1960’s they established themselves as one of Serie A’s best and kicked on to continued success throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s as they firmly established themselves as one of Italy’s top 6 clubs. This period of success organically grew Napoli’s supporter base, as the team became one of the most followed sides in the country, whilst Maradona’s arrival gave the club millions of supporters worldwide.

Pre-1990’s there were some small espresso stains on what was previously an unblotted copybook of success; The 1982/83 season saw Napoli slip from the top end of the league for the first time as they only managed only a 10th place finish, despite having some talented players such as Holland legend Ruud Krol. In the 1983/84 the decline continued and they finished only one point off the relegation zone, for a side that had experienced such prolonged success, such poor performance was unthinkable.

'I can be your Hero baby...'

They needed a hero to save this giant from falling further and in the summer of 1984 they got the icon Naples needed as they smashed the world transfer fee record to sign Maradona from Barcelona for a fee that would now equate to €12million. Napoli were reborn as Maradona lead them again to the higher echelons of Serie A, culminating in the 1986/87 and 1989/90 seasons by lifting the ‘Scudetto’ (Serie A title) and also claiming the UEFA Cup in the 1988/89 season.

All good things come to an end and the glory years of Maradona abruptly stopped as he was banned for 15 months after testing positive for Cocaine after the 1990 World Cup final. Maradona’s career was in tatters and this signalled the end to both his, and Napoli’s, success.

Gianfranco Zola was Maradona’s replacement at Napoli and was the focal point of the team along with players like Italian defender Ciro Ferrara and Uruguayan hitman Daniel Fonseca, but they didn’t stay long and by 1994 not many star names were left. During the 90’s the club found itself in huge financial trouble and were forced to sell their star players. As a result, the club’s league form became erratic and finally they were relegated to Serie B in the 97/98 season and started to yo-yo between Serie A and B. The clubs fate was sealed when they were declared bankrupt in 2004, Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli was consigned to the history books.

Tonight’s game marks the true rebirth of Napoli; after being reborn as a ‘Phoenix Club’ just after the club was wound up in 2004, they had a long battle to rise from the bottom division and climb through the Italian leagues. They only reached Serie A again after gaining promotion, along with Juventus, in the 2006/07 season. The following season their progress wasn’t as rapid as that of Juventus, but they still finished in a respectable 8th place. The question was could they regularly sustain Serie A status, but more so, could they return to the top where history told them they belonged.

They followed their 8th place finish with an uninspiring 12th, but this is where the mediocrity stopped as they rose again and finished 6th. Last season was a success story that lead Napoli’s to where they are tonight, a 3rd place finish in Serie A gave them the opportunity to show Europe what they had missed after the decline of the club from the glory years, this Phoenix really had risen.

We find this seasons Napoli lying in 6th place in a competitive Serie A, just a couple of wins off 3rd and 4th spot. Where the side have excelled this season is in the Champions League having qualified from a group of death where the successfully saw off the powerhouse that is now Manchester City. As they lineup to face Chelsea tonight, they will feel confident playing in the advanced stages of the competition, bringing a glory night back to 60,000 inhabitants of the Stadio San Paolo, who will embrace the occasion with open arms and a feeling of nostalgia that is long overdue.

Lavezzi, Hamsik and Cavani

The boots of past legends like Maradona, Zola and Fonseca have now been filled with the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamšík and goal machine Edinson Cavani. We all know the talent this trio possess and they have the potential between them, backed up by the defensive qualities of Gokhan Inler and Paolo Cannavaro, to see off troubled Chelsea tonight with a resounding home win to put years of heartache and decline to bed.

This season presents Napoli’s best chance to continue in this competition and really appease the fans by going all the way before the talented team, that has bought some glory back to Naples, is split up. Napoli are ready to cash-in on their prize assets who seem destined for the top as it seems certain that, if clubs pay the money, Lavezzi, Hamšík and Cavani will be allowed to leave as the club this summer as Napoli once again rebuild.

Success has been a long time coming, but can be short lived and is there to be enjoyed in the good times as you never know what fate lies around the corner. Don’t be surprised to see Napoli put Chelsea to bed in the hostile and electric atmosphere of the Stadio San Paolo tonight, the fans will be there early to show how fans can really make a difference to their team. Napoli as a club understands that there is a fine line between triumph and failure as the scars of history that the club and supporters bare, remain for all to see.

This entry was posted in Champions League, Club Focus, Feature Articles, Football History, Match Previews, Premier League, Serie A. Bookmark the permalink.
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  1. Rashel says:

    There is no doubt about the fact that Napoli has rich history. Besides, they are a strong team with great motivation. It will be a difficult task for Chelsea to win the match against them. Napoli is in great form. Napoli won their last two matches quite convincingly against Manchester City and Villarreal respectively. In the Italian Serie A they are unbeaten in the last 4 matches that include two back to back victories in the last two matches. Whereas, Torres cannot find the back of the net, Edinson Cavani of Napoli is in the form of his life with 15 goals scored already in this season. Chelsea, it seems, have forgotten how to win right now.

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