Despite finishing third this term, Napoli looked like they had the capacity to be the nearest challengers for the Scudetto after Juventus. Their cavalier approach was complemented by collective sharing of the goals, which filled the large hole left by Gonzalo Higuain. The 94 goals scored was the most in the division and they were scored with style. Despite this, the 39 conceded, whilst not horrendous, proved they needed to add steel at the back if they were going to compete with ‘The Old Lady’ next season.
With Arkadiusz Milik due to start the season fully fit, the front line certainly does not need reinforcing in the summer. There is the possibility of adding to the full-back position, but more importantly they need to focus on goalkeeper.
Pepe Reina has been a good servant to Napoli since joining in 2015 and, if reports are to be believed, the Spaniard was offered a new deal until 2019. The reason this may see eyebrows raised is due to the discord between the ‘keeper and his President. At a team dinner in May, Aurelio De Laurentiis made a poor joke about the 34-year-old and his wife that resulted in the pair storming out.
Reina’s potential renewal doesn’t mean Napoli should ignore the list of available goalkeepers this summer. Reina is in good shape for his age, but he has lost some of his agility and this is a problem, as his game has been based on this throughout his career. Despite some incredible saves this year, it has been evident he is trying to adapt his game to that of a more positional role this term, but his decision-making has suffered as a result.
The choice of ‘keeper Napoli replace him with (if they do) will be a difficult choice. Whilst his form has faltered at times this season, he certainly has added value to the team with his distribution. The speed with which Reina collects the ball and, in his own unique way, drop kicks to the wings has led to many of Napoli’s now famous counter attacks. This ability alone makes up for some of the errors.
Whether he decides to move on to pastures new or decides to stay, the Partenopei will have to plan for the future sooner rather than later. What better time to invest in this position than when the rest of the squad is looking strong?
The question of who they would replace him with also depends on whether he stays or goes. If he decides to give Naples two more years, then perhaps the likes of Simone Scuffet or Alex Meret would fancy a move to the Stadio San Paolo with a view to gradually replace him. Should he decide to get the band back together with Rafa Benitez on the Tyne, then they will have to look for an instant starter.
Wojciech Szczesny would certainly fit the mould after his super season at Roma, as despite links with Juventus and Inter, the Pole is still not committed to anyone and has a desire to stay in Italy. His improvement in Rome with his tactical approach and with his calmer temperament would make him an ideal fit, especially with his incredible distribution.
When next season comes around, Napoli will be heralded again as the ones who can push Juventus all the way and offensively it’s hard to argue otherwise. With rumours rife that Udinese’s Meret is a definite target, then perhaps Maurizio Sarri is looking to the future. The 20-year-old is highly thought of and may just be the missing link in Napoli’s Scudetto puzzle.