Napoli: Mazzarri’s exit ushers in era of change at the Partenopei

After the curtain fell on the 2012/2013 Serie A season, it also fell signified the final act of Walter Mazzari at Napoli, revealing in the aftermath of a 2-1 defeat to AS Roma that suspicions he would end his four year spell at the San Paolo were true. The 51 year old coach will quit with his future plans as uncertain as that of the club he has just left behind.

Two days later and Aurelio De Laurentiis, Napoli’s film-maker owner, has publicly revealed that Manchester City are in talks to sign Edinson Cavani, the shining diamond of the club’s recent resurgence, scorer of 78 goals in 104 games since his move from Palermo in 2010.

The Uruguayan was at the forefront of the “Holy Trinity”, the attacking triumvirate, alongside Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi, that led Napoli to the Champions League in 2011. Lavezzi left for PSG last summer after a year of regression, they finished fifth, but Mazzarri managed to transform fortunes once more this season, guiding the Partenopei an automatic return to Europe’s premier competition through a runners-up spot in Serie A.

Mazzarri has been non-committal on his future for the duration of the season with his contract due to expire in the summer, but how his players have remained motivated to deliver success despite the unrest is testament to the abilities of the outgoing coach. There has been a 17 point improvement on last season as they finished second despite issues over strength in depth of the squad, only 13 players have started over 10 times for Napoli this term.

That has been largely down to the potent form of Cavani, scorer of 36 goals from 41 games despite suffering from an uncharacteristic goal-drought stretching 8 matches in the midst of the campaign. There was no coincidence in the fact Napoli went on a seven game winless run in the midst of El Matador’s goalless spell, his immaculate physique and powerful ability imperative to Napoli’s fortunes.

That he will be a monumental absence to the future of the club was best indicated by De Laurentiis’s desperation to tie his striker down to a six-year deal earlier in the season, in which he installed a £63 million buy-out clause. “I do not need the money, I need Cavani” he said.

There is a sense however, that the 26 year old is due to move on. In January, the gap between Napoli and Juventus at the top of the table was just 3 points and Cavani was targeting the end of Naples’ 23 year wait for a third Scudetto. The Uruguayan desperately wanted to win something during his time at the San Paolo and his three years has only reaped last year’s Coppa Italia.

Despite cautious ownership, recent accounts have revealed that Napoli are in the black for the 6th year running, ambition can often outweigh boardroom prudence and it has dictated Cavani and Mazzarri, sadly, should move on to realise it.

For Mazzarri’s successor, Napoli remain an attractive proposition. Threatened with the tribulation of losing Lavezzi and midfield enforcer Walter Gargano in the summer, the likes of Valon Behrami and Alessandro Gamberini were bought in, as well as Portuguese defender Rolando on loan from Porto. Mazzarri’s specialist 3-4-1-2 can be difficult to adapt to and that is what some of the players in their debut year have found.

In attack, Cavani’s goal-scoring burden hasn’t been eased by the struggling Goran Pandev or the extremely raw 21 year old Lorenzo Insigne. Gokhan Inler has perhaps suffered from burn-out in midfield, starting the season well but suffering from patchy form in the second half of the campaign.

However, with 73 goals scored, the most in the league, and a tally of 36 against giving them the second meanest defensive record, there is a righteous thought that Mazzarri is leaving behind an able squad that will only improve should De Laurentiis, as expected he will do, back his new man with sufficient finances.

Other than Cavani, the new man shouldn’t face too much disruption to his playing squad, Marek Hamsik, the gifted 25 year old playmaker who has laid on 14 goals for his teammates as well as hitting 11 himself this season, has already announced his desire to stay. Replace Cavani with a quality striker, Manchester City’s discarded Edin Dzeko has been mentioned, and the post-Cavani, post-Mazzarri world will suddenly look a lot brighter.

Replacing the eccentric, chain-smoking coach in the dugout will be a lot harder for De Laurentiis however, from struggling in the bottom half of Serie A under Roberto Donadoni to the Champions League under Mazzarri, the ex-Sampdoria manager turned Napoli into one of Europe’s most entertaining clubs along the way. His system, a modified 3-5-2, was highly innovative and centred around a dangerous counter-attack.

One will hope his presence remains in football as he moves on from Naples, a city that boasts a wealth of spectacular architecture. Now it is time for its club to rebuild again, without their revolutionary coach and ruthless striker.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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