It would have been strange to suggest that Napoli wouldn’t miss Allan if the Brazilian left the Partenopei at the same time as Jorginho in 2018, but times change. One of Maurizio Sarri’s most important players at the club until that summer, the former Udinese man often embodied a warrior-like box to box role in the heart of the midfield. His job was to protect Jorginho and make up for his occasional defensive lapses. He had to recycle possession quickly and often get involved in play as well.
After Sarri departed for Stamford Bridge and Carlo Ancelotti took over at the Stadio San Paolo, things changed for Allan. Don Carlo did start with Sarri’s 4-3-3 in the beginning of the 2018-19 season, slowly transitioned to a 4-4-2 as the campaign progressed. As a result of this, Allan’s role constantly changed in the heart of the park. He often played in a double pivot beside a more attacking player in Piotr Zielinski or Fabian Ruiz in a system that hardly saw Napoli dominate as much possession as they did under Sarri.
Even at Udinese and then under Sarri, Allan was more used to venturing forwarding quite a few times in games. His chance creation was higher and he was seen as one of the best box to box midfielders in Serie A. Playing a lot deeper under Ancelotti was a different experience and while he did enjoy a good 2018-19 campaign, things changed even more last season.
Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 shape lacked a proper holding midfielder and teams could play through the Partenopei with little effort. When Allan struggled in the defensive midfield role, Ancelotti tried Zielinski and even Fabian Ruiz there and that didn’t quite work out too well either. Napoli were constantly getting over-run on the counter-attack and despite screams from fans to turn to the old 4-3-3, Ancelotti never really fancied that. The recruitment wasn’t done for a 4-4-2 and it showed, as Allan endured struggles on and off the pitch.
For the first time in many years, constant fitness issues cropped up. His game time in Serie A halved and fatigue became a main issue. There were constant knee issues that left him on the bench more than he’d have liked. In a sense, it was perhaps Allan’s worst season in a Napoli shirt - due to the fitness issues and the failure to perform that came as a result.
Ancelotti’s exit brought Gennaro Gattuso to Naples and while expectations were low, Rino gave a structure to the Napoli midfield with the signing of Diego Demme from RB Leipzig. He went back to the 4-3-3 with the only difference being the pragmatism in his approach. Stanislav Lobotka arrived as a box to box option as well and donned the role of rotating with Zielinski. Fabian, as a result, became their regular advanced midfield option.
While Allan did start in the first five games under Rino, he was largely unimpressive in a run of one win in five. Again, the fitness issues struck. The Brazilian could start only two league games after that, as he fell down the pecking order. The way the campaign panned out hardly makes it a surprise that Napoli got rid of Allan. A case can be made of the fact that they should have moved him on in January 2019 when Paris Saint-Germain were offering upwards of €50m.
They could have got a higher fee and that might have helped them bring in a replacement much earlier. Roma’s Jordan Veretout continues to be linked with a move to the San Paolo and while it remains to be seen if the Frenchman can make another move after joining from Fiorentina, the last few months suggest Napoli will not miss Allan at all.
This is why his move to Everton makes sense largely because of Ancelotti’s presence at Goodison Park. He does add structure to the midfield, and despite struggling last season, he did win an average of over three tackles per 90 minutes. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s past his prime and if Everton had scoured through the market, they might have found cheaper alternatives.
As we’ve seen many times in the past though, Don Carlo knows how to get the most out of certain players. It will be interesting to see how this pans out with Allan, but one can't help but feel it's a situation where Napoli and the player will always think about what might've been if he'd gone to PSG.
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