Politics and Italian football often go hand-in-hand and right now at Napoli, issues off the pitch are threatening to completely derail the current squad, with President Aurelio De Laurentiis at the forefront of everything.
Napoli’s woes on the pitch had led to a scheduled week-long training camp, which De Laurentiis had ordered, only for players to dismiss the camp completely and return to their homes following the Champions League draw with RB Salzburg last week.
Since then, many of the senior players have been linked with a move away from the club amid the chaos, Carlo Ancelotti seems to have fallen out with the board and De Laurentiis is threatening to fine or even sue the squad. Even more alarming, vandalism incidents struck several players, leading to suggestions the ultras are staging retaliation attacks.
So the players, club, coach and fans are all extremely irritated with each other to varying degrees and it is turning into a giant blame game. What happens now?
Napoli released the statement saying that the club will “do everything in its power to protect its economic interests, assets, image rights and disciplinary interests.” A media silence has also been announced, meaning no statements will be made for the time being until this issue has been resolved.
Lorenzo Insigne and De Laurentiis’ relationship seems to have broken down, the same with Ancelotti and the President, despite the club saying they fully back Ancelotti to deal with the current situation. All of this, obviously, is bound to have an impact on the pitch and Napoli’s 0-0 draw with Genoa at the weekend added fuel to the fire.
The title now looks, already, out of reach, and trying to get back into the mix for the top four looks doable, but the challenge is a big one, especially given how impressive the likes of Inter, Lazio and even Cagliari have been. Napoli have just five wins out of their 12 rounds and are without a win in five matches across all competitions.
The Partenopei are now 13 points behind league leaders Juventus, five off the top four and three from Roma, who occupy the final Europa League place. Given that Napoli have been Juve’s main competitor for the last few years, and how fancied they were to compete again, this season is now looking bleak.
This is now an incredibly crucial moment in Napoli’s season and what happens over the next few weeks could well impact the club for the foreseeable future. A kiss and make-up is needed, but all the noises make that seem a little out of the question right now, especially when you consider that all parties are currently at each other’s throats. The fan protest outside the training session last week showed that fans are not happy with the players and the talk now suggests that the likes of Insigne, Jose Callejon, Allan and Dries Mertens could all leave in January. To make matters worse, Mertens and Callejon will be out of contract at the end of the season, so could be forced into a January sale to avoid losing them for free.
If Napoli are already struggling to get back into the top four, imagine how they’d fare when losing those stars mid-season?
De Laurentiis and the management team have to get together now and figure out a way to resolve this issue. The international break has probably come at the right time for Napoli, with players being able to get away from the toxic environment that has built up in the last week and will also give the club’s top figures a chance to assess their next move.
One thing that can help is winning football matches. Napoli travel to Milan next in the league, a side who are having their own troubles, and three points would go some way to help ease the fears around the club.
The biggest worry about this whole affair is that everyone will come out of it having lost. There can be no winner in this situation. A victory for De Laurentiis would mean selling half the squad to prove a point. Success for the players would be undermining the club and their coach. The fans want their loyalty repaid, yet their behaviour will scare off both the current players and anyone considering coming to Napoli. Ancelotti visibly looks like he just wants to get out of this madhouse and work somewhere less stressful, like Real Madrid or Manchester United.