Thursday August 23 2012
Napoli’s curious market moves

After midfield stalwart Walter Gargano was gifted to Inter, Scott Fleming asks if transfer malpractice is threatening to undermine Napoli's challenge.

One of the few legitimate criticisms you could level at Napoli during recent seasons was their lack of a tactical Plan B. It was the 3-4-2-1 or nothing. This summer, that has changed. But instead of devising Plan B, Coach Walter Mazzarri has came up with a whole new Plan A – a 3-5-1-1.

Ostensibly it's not the most radical of shifts. If you have the Napoli Subbuteo set, all that's required is to pick up the spiky haired figure representing Marek Hamsik and drop him into central midfield.

The results achieved with this new system in pre-season, however, have been spectacular, from a 3-2 victory over Champions League runners-up Bayern Munich last month to Monday's 3-0 trouncing of Olympiacos.

And if the club hadn't thrown such an enormous tantrum in Beijing after their 4-2 defeat to Juventus in the Super Cup 12 days ago, more attention might have been paid to their performance. Which was splendid.

But just as the new system has its beneficiaries, it also has its victims, with some of the Vesuviani's most talented players left out in the cold. A lot of hype and column inches has already been devoted to young forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Eduardo Vargas, but neither has actually spent very much time on the field yet, and barring an injury to Goran Pandev, that doesn't look like changing.

In the 3-5-1-1 there is only one space for a player of their characteristics, and with Ezequiel Lavezzi having joined the ever-expanding group of Serie A ex-pats at Paris Saint Germain, Pandev – the scorer of a delightful dinked effort in Beijing – has his name on it.

Consequently Vargas, deemed worthy of an €13.6m fee on his arrival in January, is now being linked with a loan move to every club in the western hemisphere, including Siena. On Monday their sporting director Stefano Antonelli revealed his Napoli counterpart Riccardo Bigon had “made it clear he needed time to think,” suggesting even those at the highest levels of the Partenopei hierarchy are conflicted over exactly what to do with the 22-year-old Chilean.

And that isn't the most dubious transfer business the southern side have been involved in this week. That honour goes to the gifting of Walter Gargano to Inter on a €1.5m loan deal, with a €5m option to make the move permanent next summer.

Gargano can claim to be one of Europe's most underrated midfielders. Not only was he a key protagonist in the Champions League adventure last season, he also possessed symbolic value, having been a tigerish presence at the heart of Napoli's midfield ever since their return to Serie A in 2007.

“I want to point out that I wanted it,” said the Uruguayan in an open letter to fans yesterday, but that doesn't absolve the club of blame. The reason he wanted it was because he had been made to feel unvalued and marginalised this summer, by the signing of Valon Behrami from Fiorentina and by being benched for the Supercoppa.

Having pursued the likes of Aly Cissokho and Federico Balzaretti throughout the summer, the apparent abandonment of the search for a new left wing-back, leaving them reliant on the right footed Juan Zuniga and the eminently unreliable Andrea Dossena, is equally difficult to fathom.

The forthcoming season is ripe with opportunity for the Neapolitans. With no Champions League to distract them and other contenders weakened by player sales or in states of transition, there's a chance for Mazzarri's side to finish in the top three again, to qualify for the Champions League again, and maybe, just maybe, to win the Scudetto again.

But unless Bigon and Co get their act together before the transfer window shuts next week, those opportunities could be wasted. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Gargano is a great player and I was sorry to see him leave but after what he said about being an Inter fan I hope he spends the whole season on the bench and Inter DON'T take up the option to buy him so that he can crawl back to Napoli who can loan him out again and again to minor teams ending up hopefully with one of them. Just like Qualiarella he doesn't know where he was well off!
on the 30th August, 2012 at 12:44pm
This really wasn't a difficult transfer to see coming nor was it all that curious. Gargano and Mazzari did NOT get along. It became very obvious 2 years ago when Gargano was subbed during a game and had a mouthful to say to Mazzari in passing. Mazzari had to shush Gargano and put his finger to his lips.

Gargano is a great player! I consider him a midfield warrior but when there is an issue between the coach and the player then your not going to get the most out of your player.
on the 25th August, 2012 at 7:53am
Very good Article ,
but it is not just Napoli's transfer's (ok Lavezzi I that cannot be turned down) but Gargano ??? ,
But the one thing I do , is trust Mazarri , he is a terrific manager , so he knows what he is doing better than any of us Barstoolers,

Forza Napoli
on the 24th August, 2012 at 12:37pm
I think Napoli selling Gargano is a huge mistake because he is much more hard working than Behrami and Dzemaili and one of the most underrated players in Europe.
And Im a bit disappointing in the way AC Milan and Udinese have brought and sold this season because I think this year in the champions league there wont even get out of the group stages and it will be a lot more presser on Juve to bring some European success for Italy.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 9:54pm
I think Andrew's top 5 is closest to the mark, unfortunately i can see juve winning fairly comfortably but the fight for 2nd n 3rd is shaping up to be a blockbuster, cant wait for it to get started. FORZA NERAZZURRI!!!
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 4:33pm
I don't care about Napoli, I don't care about Mazzari, and I don't care about their system. All I care about is that Insigne gets playing time.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 3:33pm
Good article. I'm thinking that if Napoli swaps Vargas for Mesto then they may go for another striker in the market. I'd be happy with Floccari to be honest. Napoli doesn't need to buy up big as I'm sure Mazzari's goal is to arrive Top 3 only and let's face it - Milan and Inter are weak now. Pandev-Cavani-Hamsik is the best attack in Serie A and with Insigne is even more promising, If their defence can actually defend then Top 3 should be achievable.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 3:13pm
Napoli fan here- I'd say that was a pretty dead on accurate assessment. Good preseason performances, especially Insigne and Pandev, but the season is long and we need some reinforcements.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 2:30pm
Haha I Think Juve will win the league comfortably, after that it's hard to call between, Milan, Napoli, Inter and Roma. So I just had a guess. Gargano doesn't want to be a squad player at Napoli, but i'm not so sure he will be a first team player at Inter anyway ?
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 2:17pm
Good article. Napoli's performance at the Super Coppa was 'splendid'. They would've won had the referee not gifted Jeventus the game!
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 2:13pm
Not only Napoli but alot of Serie A teams transfers are questionable...

Juve added quantity & not quality to their team & now they finding it hard to land a top striker. Milan released a couple of veterans, then sold 2 star players & was forced into an exchange. Inter's transfer isn't exactly out of this world & Roma may have brought in Destro but they let Borini go...

I'm finding it hard to see which team has done "good shopping" during this transfer period....
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 2:12pm
It is a real shame that Vargas and Insigne look to have limited roles. I'm sure I read a quote from De Laurentis on this site that seemed to suggest that Napoli only bought Vargas through opportunism to get a talented player, rather than through an assessment of the technical needs of the squad.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 1:31pm
I think Gargano is a good, but limited player. An inferior Gattuso. I like Gargano, he has excellent work rate, and is tough tackling, but offers little going forward. Behrami is a more rounded player and Dzemali is more forward thinking. I can only think that with only two up frontinstead of three more is required from the midfield in possession and going forward, which Behrami and Dzemali offer over Gargano. Thugh Gargano would be a very useful squad player, but he wont accept that role.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 1:27pm
No way Napoli finishes 2nd. More likely top 5
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 1:14pm
Yeah Yeah Yeah, Luca why doesn't that surprise me that you put Juventus first! Lol
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 12:39pm
Find it hard to understand how one can label Napoli's performance inte supercup as "splendid". They sat back and defended with eight men, only relying on counterattacks. Had it not been for some sloppy defending (typical of pre-season) from Juve, which gifted Napoli two fluke goals, the game would have been viewed totally different.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 12:34pm
Gargano's departure is ridiculous. Not only was he one of our most consistent performers last season he is also has a lot more to offer than his replacement Behrami. There has also been no real attempt to secure a new left wing back. Alvaro Perreira would of been perfect so why hasn't some of the money received for Lavezzi been invested in him. Every Napoli fan will tell you how useless Dossena is. This transfer window should of been a step forward but instead it's a step back.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 11:28am
I don't know what Mazarri is smoking if he thinks Behrami and Dzemaili are better than Gargano, like you said one of the most underrated players in Europe, the two Swiss players are completely average Serie A players that will never perform well in Europe. Also if only Mazarri switched to a 4-2-3-1 he could fit one or both of Vargas and Insigne and wouldnt have to play that terrible 3 man defence that cost them a Champions League quarter final.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 11:22am
In my opinion, Napoli's main weakness is De Sanctis. He is a good shot stopper, but that is about it. He makes many errors, and is woeful at dealing with aerial threats. He also allows himself to be beaten at his near post far too often. Scott is spot on with his assessments of Gargano, and the left wing back position. I am very confident that Insigne will play a large part. He will make it very hard for the reticent-when it comes to fielding young players-Mazzarri, not to play him.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 11:20am
Nice one Scott well written and true but more importantly where do you get the Subutteo Napoli set.
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 11:05am
I going to throw out a prediction for the top 10 in Serie A this season.

5AC Milan
on the 23rd August, 2012 at 10:19am

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