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Saturday August 8 2020
No Camp Nou miracle for Napoli

Napoli didn’t have enough belief in themselves to really pick Barcelona apart, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi, in another timid Champions League exit.

It felt a bit like one of those late, long-distance buzzer shots in basketball. For as long as the ball is in the air - in this case for the months between the two ties - there was always hope for Napoli. But it ultimately crashed down short of the hoop on a hot summer night in Barcelona.

Trying to deconstruct how things unfolded - in the first half in particular - took the investigative skills of an expert detective. Rino Gattuso’s side started well enough, and even hit the woodwork, but then things started to get complicated. A goal was allowed to stand that might have been ruled out, while another was disallowed that could well have stood. There was a penalty given at both ends and a moment of ridiculous brilliance from - who else? - Lionel Messi. Decipher that if you will, Sherlock.

What we could say for sure was that the Partenopei lost their way a bit too easily after they slipped a goal behind. Yes, it did look like Clement Lenglet pushed an opponent out of the way to grab the advantage, but that was not enough to justify such a loss of belief. They were still right in the tie, but the way they seemed to topple into disarray for a spell was disappointing. Having built a career on determination in the face of any adversity, their coach will have been particularly irked. There is no shame in losing ties like this, but you want to come out of them with no regrets.

In truth, it would have taken a perfect performance to see off a side like the Blaugrana and this was far from that. The defence was too distracted, the passing was just not slick enough and too many players were below their best. Jose Callejon - a great servant for so long - was so anonymous in this tie that it almost felt like he had left the club already. He was not alone in that regard.

There were moments when we got glimpses of what might have been, but they were all too fleeting. Not even the calamitous contributions of Cuneyt Cakir could really offer any real credibility to claims that the better team had not progressed. The home side was always holding their visitors at least at arm’s length.

It would have taken more than Napoli had to offer to rattle Quique Setien’s side. Perhaps we could clutch at the straw that if that opening goal had been disallowed, events might have unfolded a little differently. However, I think that, deep down, we all know that if we replayed this game 100 times, the Serie A side would only have progressed on a handful of occasions.

It all left Italy, once again, as a peripheral player in the latter stages of the Champions League. After Juve’s supine submission to Lyon, there will only be Atalanta to fly the flag for Calcio in the Final Eight. From what we have seen so far this lengthy season, that is probably a fair outcome in truth.

It underlines, once again, just how the Italian game remains at some distance from the upper reaches of the very best on the continent. The Bianconeri have been, for the best part of a decade, far and away the strongest side on the domestic front and yet they have found Europe’s top trophy a step too far. Indeed, they seem to have drifted further away from being a contender despite the marquee signing of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The rest, if we are honest, look more like Europa League material - which might yet give Inter some joy this summer. In the hope that the boys from Bergamo can prove me wrong, the Champions League appears more and more the preserve of a handful of clubs with Serie A looking in from the outside. There is the odd flicker of hope - which needs to be built upon - but the mountain to climb remains a significant one. If Calcio wants to reclaim the European crown it once owned, we may yet have a few years to wait before it hits that particular basket.

Giancarlo Rinaldi is the author of a number of books about Italian football. You can find out more about them here.

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Have your say...
@ Partenopei, rubbish, if the bids you’re inventing were true, it means only one thing, that those clubs do not value Insigne who is a third rate player. I am not spamming him, I am telling the truth, he is the only one who stays on the pitch no matter how rubbish he plays, that's no good for team spirit,especially when he behaves like a spoiled signorina brat, the very few times he is taken off. Compare his scoring rate with that of MERTENS, who stays always humble, and see for yourself.
on the 30th August, 2020 at 10:32pm
Partenopei agreed ADL runs a very good team financially. My only issue issue is he needs to buy the right players to play and grow with team not these amateurs. As for Scarpetta he clearly has no idea of insigne skill and worth on Napoli. The team revolves around him and is a extremely underrated talent. Not sure why he is so sensitive but definetaly should not be making outrageous comments on this article.
on the 15th August, 2020 at 2:46am
@Scarpetta
A cursory look at google reveals Insigne linked to all the top clubs in Europe at various times, including a few actual bids turned down.

He is a good player and do not understand your constant spamming regarding him.

@Anonymous
ADL can come across as a jerk but runs the club very well from a financial standpoint.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 4:28pm
@Anonymous "Insigne is by far a still growing talent. ", the guy is almost 30 did you know that dimwit.
on the 12th August, 2020 at 11:20pm
@Anonymous do you always get personal when short on arguments,do you think by lucking respect uou can get away with it, why don't you answer my question,why is it that no Club, big or small, has ever ever ever shown one little bit of interest in Insigne if he was that great, dimwit?
on the 12th August, 2020 at 11:05pm
Insigne bleeds BLue, Scarpetta you should put the shoe in your mouth. Insigne is by far a still growing talent. If there is someone you should comlain about its the owner ADL who thinks he is an american an uses the team for money not to win. Insigne will be the stand out for italy also so much that he carries the # 10. They need to replace other players in Napoli. ADL is a greedy pig and it starts there.
on the 11th August, 2020 at 5:09pm
@Hamsik17

To be fair Lobotka replaced Demme at half time.

Napoli have already signed 2 new strikers in Osimhen and Petagna.
on the 11th August, 2020 at 5:07pm
This Barca team was there for the taking. Lobotka is a very good player and in a game we had to score at least 1 goal or even win away playing a creative midfielder would have helped instead of Demme. The other thing I don’t understand is why didn’t Demme fall when he was pushed. He just stood there and didn’t even complain? If someone pushes you you fall to the ground. This Napoli team is a bunch of dead beats. Miss you Maradona. Mertens upfront I’m so over this. We need new blood.
on the 11th August, 2020 at 1:00pm
I'm a little curious why Gattuso is destroying young Italian players, like Cutrone in Milan then Meret in Napoli.
on the 11th August, 2020 at 9:02am
Napoli hit the woodwork a record 36 times this season.

Ridiculous!
on the 10th August, 2020 at 5:46pm
@spirit_willy...what a name! Mahrez,Bellerin really? @ Scarpetta 16 years of cleaning le scarpe! Insigne is a very good player although his shooting could be better. He always wants to win, maybe a little too much sometimes but he is very good and to say Napoli always plays with 10 men when he plays you are deluded. Check out his stats especially his passing. Lozano, Younes, Milik, Callejon (lately) Hysej now there we have some real donkeys not Insigne!
on the 10th August, 2020 at 11:34am
@Anonymous Insigne fan, if Insigne was any good, why is it then that not one single big ( or small for that matter)Club has "EVER" been interested in him, every other Napoli player has been subject of interest to many clubs, but Insigne?
Ancelloti the only one with cojones who dared putting him on the bench was asked to leave soon afterwards, and that is why Napoli biggest problem is INSIGNE in the last 10 years, and if you don't see it, you know nothing about football.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:07am
@Anonymous,
if you know football from watching it on TV, I have played it for 16years, and if you think Insigne is a good player, then your knowledge of football as much as Insigne's in quantum physics.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 11:12pm
Italian teams need an italian core without that we will never succeed in UCL. The players are their u just need to bring back the Italian minimum. We have the best talent in the world. As for insigne he should be the forefront he is the only one doing anything. Gattuso should have started politano and brought in Malik sooner. To say insigne is rubbish means u better watch another sport because u don't know what u watching.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 5:53pm
Napoli's tendency to slow the play in possession is hurting them. When you think of our goals in this year's UCL, most were from counters or fast build-up (Mertens vs Salz, vs Liv). In attacking phases, we always allow our opponents plenty of time to find their shape. Players start asking the ball to their feet, not facing the goal and that only makes sense when you have a man like Lukaku up front. Lozano, Politano, Mertens and Insigne don't make sense for the system in place.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 5:01pm
Lack of execution has troubled this team all year, missed shots, errant passes,
mental errors and poor decision making on the field. You cannot defeat a Barca team at home unless you execute at the highest level.
Gattuso has enfused the team with confidence and a degree of grittiness that the team had lost, but he cannot give the players that ability to go beyond their talents and play to win at all cost.
That characteristic is inherent in some players but not others, Napoli needs more winners.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 3:33pm
If you give special treatment to a very very very average player like Insgne, not only you are giving the complete wrong message to the rest of the team demotivating them, but you're shooting yourself in the foot, wrongly making him think he is a big shot, and that is usually recipe for disaster, just like Napoli since Mazzarri left, "good potential but built on appearances" which in football, like in life is meaningless, and never won trophies.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 1:47pm
As long as Napoli continues to have special treatment for their worst player Insigne they can forget pretending to anything next season, I have been saying it for 10 years now and will repeat it again, "No one can win anything in Football with 10men against 12, because playing Insigne is playing with 10 men against 12 he plays often against his team losing crucial balls that end up in goals against Napoli.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 1:37pm
I have been saying it for 10 years now, "NO ONE CAN WIN ANYTHING PLAYING 9 MEN AGAINST 12, INSIGNE HIS MAJESTY IS A BIG LIABILITY HE IS A MAN GIVEN TO THE OPPONENTS, DOES IT TAKE 10 BLOODY YEARS TO REALIZE THAT DIMWITS?
Gattuso is as dim as Sarri he shoots himself in the foot by diving his best formation the last 10 minutes when they're losing 3-1, a real dimwit.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 1:28pm
Players were more effective! Like Di Lorenzo + Politano. Maybe Milik could've come on earlier but Gattuso knew Barca would be struggling last 15 mins due to all injuries + Napoli did pin them back, despite Barca been more rested. Barca did defend well but Napoli lacked a cutting edge too. Insigne had a couple of good moments but I can see now why they've bought Osimhen. Koulibaly was poor at bringing the ball out too. They gave a decent account but it still feels like a missed opportunity!
on the 9th August, 2020 at 10:44am
Ferban sums it up perfectly. Serie A in decay. The most shocking thing is how little fear our teams engender. Teams look forward to playing us because they know we are beset by obvious weaknesses and will ultimately crumble. Ironically, but unsurprisingly, our last hope in either competition, are Serie A oddities. Inter do actually have real quality upfront and Atalanta are very dangerous (and equally vulnerable) over the one game knockout format. Who knows? It could be Serie A's year after all!
on the 9th August, 2020 at 10:31am
I agree about belief! Napoli tend to sabotage themselves? But I don't want to be too critical. They tried. They ran over 5km more than Barca, had more possession, completed more passes + had more shooting attempts! They did play their little hearts out. It reminded me of Inter/Getafe a bit where the losing side dominated early on, were better in spells but after going behind, never really had enough drive to cause an upset! Some of Napoli's 'big' players disappointed me a bit? Some of 'smaller'
on the 9th August, 2020 at 10:22am
Napoli's signings been understatement. Lorenzo malcuit both are not enough. Where is that player in place of hamsic to command attacking moves? They need to buy players of experience. Napoli have to make the next step by buying riyad mahrez, dendoncker, bellerin to punish teams like Bercelona.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 7:21am
>but that was not enough to justify such a loss of belief.
meh, when you're playing barca in CL and they allow that goal, you might as well pack up. You also know if the reverse happens, they disallow it.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 6:08am
If Inter and Atalanta fail to get to either final, Serie A will have had two finalists (and only one team) to make a European final from the last 44 finalists!

Truly shocking record.

All we have now are Juve's recent failures and the dinosaurs from Milan going on about what they won over a decade ago with players who are long gone.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 3:27am
Napoli played okay, but if they can't beat the worst Barca team in years, when will they?

Juve, Napoli, and Roma gone. Inter unconvincing, Atalanta at least should have a go. But their defence could be their downfall

Serie A is embarrassing in Europe. Hopefully Inter can with the EL (don't count on it) and Atalanta get to the semis/final

There's just nothing in Italy to scare the others. Juve are at their weakest in years, and the rest spend more time moaning, making excuses, and blaming Juve
on the 9th August, 2020 at 3:24am
Classic Gattuso Calcio - get upfront and run out of ideas. Dig yourself into a hole early and then try to climb out of it. Need to be solid and consistent throughout. He had the same issues while managing Milan.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 12:37am
This game once again underlines Napoli need to upgrade the attack with some pace and creatvity.

Hopefully Osimhen can be the out and out striker needed and a tricky winger like Boga/Under would be great.

Also desperately need a midfielder with drive and strong leadership qualities or a creative trequartista type.

Also, hopefully this puts to bed in Gattuso's mind his crazy idea that Ospina is better than Meret. Move forward with Alex next season please.
on the 9th August, 2020 at 12:24am
Gattuso needed to win, without forwards on the pitch. Ridiculous.
on the 8th August, 2020 at 11:51pm

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