The January transfer window provides a fresh opportunity for squads to improve and solidify their season ambitions. Inter, for example, secured the loan of Lisandro Lopez from Benfica after being desperately in need of defensive cover.
Napoli, despite flying high at the top of the table, are in undisputed need of cover for their forward players. Despite this glaringly obvious omission, they failed to sign a single player, and considering the need for them to maintain their momentum, their incompetence in the market could ultimately see the Scudetto slip from their grasp.
It all began with Simone Verdi, the highly-fancied, multi-faceted winger at Bologna. After the bulk of negotiations sailed by smoothly, Verdi himself turned Napoli down. What on the face of it may seem utterly ludicrous, seeing as Napoli are in pole position to secure a title, he in fact had sound reasoning for shunning Sarri.
The tactician’s uber-rigid starting line-up is one which he will not compromise, no matter how much Aurelio De Laurentiis throws at players like Nikola Maksimovic. The Serbian is a prime example of how, unless your competition picks up an injury, you are discarded.
Did Verdi fear trading the admiration of the Rossoblu faithful and a regular berth at Bologna for a role bench warming in Naples? This would be the logical explanation, and the failure to sign Verdi served as a prelude to what was an impossible window for the Neapolitans.
Amin Younes turned down the chance to join after visiting the stadium due to ‘personal reasons’ and reports persist he is trying to get out of the contract he signed for next season. Whatever these reasons may be, for Napoli, they were no closer to finding the missing piece that could clinch them the Scudetto.
Gerard Deulofeu joined Watford late in the window, and a fateful last gasp bid for Sassuolo’s Matteo Politano smacked of utter desperation. A ludicrously inflated fee upwards of €25 million was reported, as well as a player exchange, which was refused by Sassuolo. While Napoli cited Juventus’ supposed control over the market in Italy as the reasons, they had still made no ground in ensuring their position at the pinnacle was strengthened.
Bizarre factors made their way into the mix, with Everton’s Davy Klaassen failing to join on the last day of the window due to his image rights not being handed over to Napoli.
Such complications and inefficiencies can be argued to be born of the sheer nature of Sarri’s side, his rigidity and unwavering faith in Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon simply translates as untouchable to any potential arrivals.
In this argument, Sarri and Napoli are victims of what makes them so fantastic: their wonderful style and fluidity simply isn’t compatible with rotation.
Napoli’s failure in the market will play a pivotal role in whether they are able to win the Scudetto. Should injury befall one of their golden trifecta, fingers will be pointed at De Laurentiis. However, a wider question should be asked as to whether Sarri’s system is too inherently inflexible, and while a great starting XI wins games, a great squad wins titles.
With the end of season run in coming thick and fast alongside their Europa League tie against RB Leipzig, Napoli are gambling, there is simply no two ways about it. Should Juventus pip them, all roads will lead back to January.