There seems to be some alarm around Napoli at the moment with reports of new Coaches lined up, Rafa Benitez’s contract not being renewed and his reputed arguments with owner Aurelio De Laurentiis. Factor in the general dissatisfaction felt by the fans over the team’s poor start to the season and stir in comments about the club’s future from the less salubrious sections of the media and you have the basis of a panic in the streets.
Then there is the fact that De Laurentiis visited the training ground at Volturno twice in recent days, which is a rare thing in itself and you can see why some might get ideas beyond reality. But has it all been built up out all proportions?
ADL simply wanted to have a word with the players and, on his second visit as Rafa had returned from a family holiday back in Liverpool during international week, a word with his Coach before he went to the USA on club business.
Yet there still seems to be an agenda against Rafa and Napoli with reports suggesting that the he and the President don’t get on - something ridiculed by both individuals, as well as the club. “Reports in some newspapers that Benitez taking a few days off is another sign that the relationship with De Laurentiis has 'cracked' is not only false but ridiculous,” Napoli said in a recent statement.
Nonetheless there is no denying, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’.
The fans feel they have rightful grievances about the lack of serious investment in the squad and it doesn’t help when they get this sort of response from Napoli’s equivalent of Hamlet’s Claudius, ADL’s son, Edoardo: “Disappointed or not, we couldn’t care less about what our fans think, because we have always achieved excellent results at the end of the season.” All this and poor displays against Athletic Bilbao, a narrow win over Genoa and the Chievo defeat, has understandably left fans frustrated.
The bottom line, though, is that it is only the second round of games and the players and the newcomers look strong enough to get over all this. There is no doubting that Rafa, as his medals and experiences at other club show, is a top-notch Coach. Yet there is also no doubt that the team did not look prepared for the recent set of games, especially against the Flying Donkeys, which reminded everyone how many times Napoli lost to opposition they should have beaten easily last season. Defensive mistakes have already cost dearly this season and despite what ADL says, all the negative press and the lack of season tickets sold could see him waiver in his support of the Spaniard.
Undoubtedly the movie mogul would have not minced his words at their recent meeting and Rafa himself knows it’s a result business. Publicly, though, will the President still back his Coach to the hilt or not? One thing we do know is that much more of these disappointments and De Laurentiis may see him off.
For the time being however, it is much too early to be over negative and the only way forward is to give full backing to the team and the Coach, unlike many did on Sunday.
Next up for Napoli is Sparta Prague in the Europa League this Thursday and that won’t be any picnic, and this competition in itself presents another problem. Should Napoli concentrate on it at the risk of injuring or wearing out first team players? I believe many fans would plump for the title or nothing and let Napoli take advantage of the extra pressure that Roma and Juve will be under until January at least.
In surmising current events, it is worth noting that since ADL took over, the club have enjoyed two successive promotions and have become a regular top five side in Serie A. They have also reached the Champions League twice and under Benitez recorded their most points ever and scored the most goals over a season as well.
For fans to be rebelling against their team and certain players doesn’t augur well and can only unsettle the squad. I personally feel Rafa should get more time and, if need be, more financial backing in January. We have seen how Napoli can devastate teams on their day and it will happen again, all that is needed is faith.