“With or without you our passion will never end,” was the message on a massive banner from Napoli fans directed at Aurelio De Laurentiis during the recent friendly with Paris Saint-Germain. Factor in the chants and the messages on various fans’ forums inviting the club owner to spend money this summer and it’s obvious some tifosi are seriously unhappy with the lack of market activity so far.
Not that ADL seems preoccupied, as his statement seemed to prove: “Without the frenzy of market this year I feel a lot more confident and happy.”
In reality he has never been afraid to put his hand in his pocket since he took over a decade ago. However, that is no balm to the fans this summer and they have seen none of the exciting arrivals of last year. If he means what he says about wanting a Scudetto, many feel he really needs to make at least another big investment to plug the gaping hole in midfield.
At the start of the summer they really needed at least three high-grade players. Yet so far only young defender Kalidou Koulibaly and deputy striker-attacking midfielder Michu have arrived. Good enough players with the former in particular hot in pre-season, but hardly the names to get the blood pumping.
The pivotal midfielder that is urgently needed has seen literally dozens of names - some great, some average and some downright ridiculous - linked with the Partenopei. Yet out of all these no-one has yet been signed and even Coach Rafa Benitez seems frustrated.
When asked if he was satisfied with the way the market has gone the Spaniard diplomatically shrugged his shoulders replying with a metaphorical: “I can only coach those at my disposal.” Not quite as direct as the fans, but reading between the lines the Spaniard is seemingly not overly enamoured by the lack of activity in the market.
The trouble is figuring out whether or not it makes sense to push the boat out and spend like last summer. You have to ask if it is not better to rely on a squad that is strong, competitive and that has become a compact group over the last year. Perhaps with too much transfer work, the close relationships that have developed could be disturbed. At the moment it is a group of players who know each other and because of that togetherness they won the Italian Cup, finished third and are in the Play-off round of the Champions League. Saying that, passing into the group stage this year or not is likely to have been a factor in ADL’s thoughts.
Perhaps he is thinking that too much of an outlay could cause monetary ruin in a few years’ time - you only have to look at Inter, post-Jose Mourinho for that. According to Italian sports finance site Calcio and Finanza, Napoli are the most financially sound club in Italy at the moment, so why risk upsetting the applecart?
Should the Partenopei do something without worrying about any negative consequences? Should they forget about fiscal accountability, as if to say - if we do this we can win the title?
Of course De Laurentiis would have looked at all the consequences and it’s a delicate balance. If he was to splash out and spend beyond his and the club’s means he would not only risk financial malady but also penalties through UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, something ADL’s careful husbandry has so far avoided.
As the club’s income has risen in recent years, it is also important to note that so too have the outgoings - wages and transfer fees - whilst the President has never gambled too heavily. So far Napoli have done nothing but progress and stand today as regular European entrants and a top three Serie A club.
Perhaps behind De Laurentiis’ reluctance to spend is the awareness that a massive outlay this summer could create real problems in the future if financial returns don’t match up to those outgoings. Surely fans wouldn’t want that, even if the title was snatched away from Juventus for a perhaps a season or two. Or would they?