Napoli reconquers Scudetto 33 years after Maradona
Napoli won their third Serie A title on Thursday with a 1-1 draw against Udinese on matchday 33, thus becoming champions of Italy 33 years after winning it for the second and last time under the leadership of Diego Armando Maradona. The team from the south of the country, a city as populated as it is football-mad, lifted a Scudetto that had been a foregone conclusion for several weeks, with five games to go, with the best season in its history. Coach Luciano Spalletti, who won the Coppa and Supercoppa with Roma 15 years ago, graduated with honors under the guidance of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Maradona’s long shadow
With eight podium finishes in the previous 12 seasons, Maradona’s shadow was growing longer and longer in Naples. The ‘God’ of soccer led the city of Vesuvius to the Calcio title in 1987 and 1990, with a UEFA Cup in between (1989).
Three second places
Since then, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan extended their dominance in the Italian palmarès, with particular Neapolitan pain between 2015 and 2019, with three second places and a third. Last season, Spalletti took over Napoli and kept them in the Serie A fight until Milan regained their prestige.
Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia, the engines of success
A year later, it is now the turn of the ‘gli azzurri’ team. Osimhen had been scoring good goals for two years in Naples, but the Nigerian, 22 goals as Capocannoniere, ended up exploding with the arrival of Kvaratskhelia, the great revolution of Serie A. The Georgian winger arrived this season from Dinamo Batumi to become a player to talk about in the market.
Kim Min-jae, one of the key players
Another key player was South Korean center-back Kim Min-jae, an important ‘kaiser’ who arrived this season from Fenerbahce to make Spalletti’s team the team with the fewest goals conceded in the Italian league. Osimhen’s goal on Thursday in Udine, 900 kilometers from home, confirmed the Neapolitan title.
Farewell to bad memories
Gone are the years of almost Scudetto and, above all, those of sporting crisis, camorra and economic eviction that followed the traumatic departure of Maradona. Napoli came to disappear, even if 50,000 fans filled the San Paolo, now named after the deceased myth in November 2020, with his team in the Third Division. Transiting with its nostalgia through Serie C, the club was re-founded in 2004 with the arrival of controversial film producer Aurelio de Laurentiis. The investment and signings were slow to pay off after the club returned to Serie A in 2007. Gone were Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and company. This time with lesser names such as Eljif Elmas, Stanislav Lobotka and Tanguy Ndombélé, they have put together a campaign to remember and to finally overcome the indelible mark of Maradona.