Napoli’s quietly brilliant business in the summer transfer window
Napoli, like other Serie A sides, have put together a series of solid moves in the summer transfer window. However, unlike their Italian rivals, Napoli have had to deal with the loss of club icons. From aging stars to important players of the moment, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis and his team have done wonders to create a competitive squad despite departures.
Although it’s early days, Napoli sit atop the Serie A table with two dominating wins from two games. Both newcomers and starters score for fun, as Napoli have nine goals combined in those two games. Here’s how Laurentiis and Luciano Spalletti put together another competitive side in a parity-riddled Serie A season.
Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens are legends for Napoli. The pair are the top two names on Napoli’s all-time scoreboard. Moreover, they rank in the top five for all-time appearances with the club. In the summer of 2022, the two left on free transfers. Mertens remained in Europe, moving to Galatasaray in Turkey. Insigne was one of MLS’ big signings, opting for Toronto FC.
Both of these players may have passed their prime at the age of 31 for Insigne and 35 for Mertens. Two players in their prime have also left Napoli. Kalidou Koulibaly, one of the most sought after names in world football in recent years, has finally moved to England with Chelsea. Fabian Ruiz, arguably the best midfielder at the club, looks set to join PSG, if rumors are to be believed. His deal potentially includes a player swap deal with Keylor Navas coming to Italy.
Navas replaces David Ospina, the longtime goalkeeper of the Patenopei, who now earns a lot of money in Saudi Arabia.
The pressure begins to rise:
That’s five key players on the door in a transfer window for Napoli. For that alone, most clubs are lowering their expectations drastically and preparing for some sort of rebuild over the next season or two.
The feat of third in Serie A last season is a difficult task every year. Given Napoli’s losses and transfer windows from clubs like Roma, Juventus and the two Milan clubs, that feat seemed harder to match.
Fans and pundits grew frustrated with Napoli when Juventus brought in Angel Di Maria, Paul Pogba and Filip Kostic. Inter have snapped up Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea while bringing in the Belgian’s former team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The defending Scudetto winners got cult Liverpool hero Divock Origi and a promising defender in Charles de Ketelaere. Roma also caused a stir, with the arrival of Nemanja Matic, Zeki Celik, Georgino Wijnaldum and Paulo Dybala in the capital.
Obviously, the early chances piled up against Napoli. The club lacked serious, known names to repair losses on the pitch.
Napoli’s first key signing in the summer transfer window
On the contrary, Aurelio De Laurentiis got to work. At the beginning of the summer, the president of Naples brought an unheard-of name to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The 21-year-old Georgian winger is Insigne’s natural replacement. Immediately, many questioned the replacement and his ability to replicate Insigne’s impressive output with Gli Azzuri. After all, Insigne captained the club for four full seasons.
On Matchday 1, Napoli got carried away with a 5-2 win at Hellas Verona. Immediately, Kvaratkhelia made himself known. His masterclass performance included a goal and an assist in his debut game.
A week later, he again continued to impress. He dropped another masterpiece on his debut at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, grabbing a brace in Napoli’s 4-0 win over newly promoted Monza.
New transfers in
After their first victory, Napoli announced new signings during the summer transfer window. Giovanni Simeone has arrived from Hellas Verona on loan. The same goes for Tottenham’s Tanguy Ndombele and 22-year-old striker Giacomo Raspadori of Sassuolo. The latter is Napoli’s big step to replace Dries Mertens.
Prior to that, the Italian club had also signed two centre-backs to fill the void from Koulibaly’s loss. Leo Ostigard comes from Brighton & Hove Albion, and Min-Jae Kim was Napoli’s most expensive signing this summer transfer window from Turkish club Fenerbahce. Kim was spectacular on his Serie A debut, putting in a strong and solid performance which was followed by a clean sheet from Napoli and a first club goal against Monza.
Smart company potentially creating title challengers
Napoli have accomplished all this while reducing the club’s wage bill by 27%. In doing so, the team’s average age went down a full year from 26.7 to 25.7. The Partenopei had a very good start to the season in Serie A even without the last three recruits: Simeone, Ndombele and Raspadori.
Reports suggest Napoli’s summer transfer market isn’t over yet as the search for GK is still ongoing. The most likely options to replace Alex Meret, the aforementioned Keylor Navas, should this deal go through. Another option is Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Either way, Napoli look strong and very capable of challenging for the top four or even more. Over the past few years, many have written off the club in this fight. Now, it looks like Napoli are ready to go in 2022/23.