The 2-time Champions of Italy
In late 1904, Napoli was formed in the city of Naples by an English sailor named William Poths and three Italians called Conforti, Catterina and Amedeo Salsi. The Englishman worked in a maritime agency called Cunard Lines and used to play football in his spare time. He joined his forces with the three Neapolitans and played a crucial part in the founding of Naples Football & Cricket Club.
Amedeo Salsi, one of the three Italian founders of the club, was selected as its first president. The side played its first game against a team of British sailors who were enjoying newfound fame after defeating the mighty Genoa side a few days ago. Naples ended up winning the game 3-2 and clinched the trophy which was named after its president.
One year after its birth, its owners decided to drop the “Cricket’’ part of the name. From now on, they decided, the club would simply be called Naples Football Club. The side earned more fame when, in 1909, it ended up winning the inaugural Lipton club, organized by Thomas Lipton, owner of the famous tea brand with the same name.
Within the next three years, matters so came to a head within the club that its foreign part broke off and ended up founding another club, US Internazionale Napoli. This division would stand for the next fourteen years before the clubs reunited under the new name, Associazione Calcio Napoli, in 1926. This union didn’t bring much luck as Napoli got only 1 point in the inaugural 18-match Serie A season.
Since then, the club has seen both dizzying heights as well as unfathomable lows in its journey. Napoli has endured several relegations in its history, with the most recent coming at the end of the 2003/04 season. It has also given its fans plenty of reasons to feel happy by winning 2 Serie A titles, 5 Coppa Italia, 2 Suppercoppa Italiana, and 1 UEFA Cup.
His technique, poise and natural ability on the ball made Diego Maradona one of the greatest players of the 21st century. But for the Neapolitans, the Argentine is more than a footballer. More than other trophies which he won at the club, the little magician’s contribution in the Gil Azzurri winning two Scudetto titles made him an idol, a living legend and a demigod of Naples.
Maradona was signed by Napoli in 1984, a time when the southern-northern divide in Italian society was especially evident in football. Prior to his arrival in Naples, the northern powerhouses of Juventus, Milan, Rome, and Inter had a stranglehold on the Scudetto. No team south of Rome had ever lifted the famous trophy after Palermo’s win in 1970.
The arrival of the quixotic Argentine changed all that. Within two years of his arrival from FC Barcelona, he helped the club claim its first Scudetto on 10 May 1987. So unbelievable was the victory that the Neapolitans, unable to decide how they should celebrate it, took over the city’s graveyards, where someone wrote: “You don’t know what you are missing!”
His love affair with the Gil Azzurri continued for seven campaigns in all, with the Argentine blessing the club with the most successful period in its history. Apart from the 1986/87 Scudetto, they won Coppa Italia in the same year, the UEFA Cup two years later and a second – and still the club’s most recent – Scudetto title in 1989/90 season.
So long-lasting has been his impact at the club and the city that thirty years after his last trophy with Napoli, the Argentine’s legacy lives on through posters and murals around Naples. Many shop owners have gone as far as to hang the image of a patron saint – Diego Maradona – in their working places to protect themselves. And the word that captions a large number of these images? Dios (God).
Rank Player name Position Weekly salary 1 Lorenzo Insigne LW €165,000 2 Kostas Manolas CB €155,000 3 Dries Mertens CF €150,000 4 Hirving Lozano RW €142,000 5 Kalidou Koulibaly CB €125,000 6 Jose Callejon RW €105,000 7 Arkadiusz Milik CF €90,000 8 Faouzi Ghoulam LB €85,000 9 Allan CM €70,000 10 Mario Rui LB €65,000 11 Simone Verdi RW €65,000 12 Fernando Llorente CF €61,000 13 Vlad Chiriches CB €60,000 14 Elseid Hysaj RB €57,000 15 Amin Younes LW €55,000 16 Fabian Ruiz CM €55,000 17 David Ospina GK €50,000 18 Elif Elmas CM €46,000 19 Giovanni Di Lorenzo RB €42,000 20 Nikola Maksimovic CB €42,000 21 Lorenzo Tonelli CB €40,000 22 Piotr Zielinski CM €40,000 23 Alex Meret GK €35,000 24 Adam Ounas RW €32,000 25 Kevin Malcuit RB €28,000 26 Orestis Karnezis GK €17,000 27 Sebastiano Luperto CB €14,000
Source: Silly Season
Worst placement in the final table:
After being relegated the following campaign from Serie B, Napoli finished the 2004/05 season at 3rd place in Serie C.
Least goals in a season:
During the whole of 1979/80 season, Napoli were able to score only 20 goals. It remains to this day the worst-scoring season in the club’s history.
Most goals conceded:
During the 1997/98season, SSC Napoli conceded a whopping 76 goals in their 38 Serie A fixtures. Unsurprisingly, they were relegated due to their porous defense.
Worst goal difference:
Since they conceded 76 and scored only 25 goals, Napoli finished the 1997/98 season with a disgraceful goal difference of -51.
Least points scored:
Surprisingly, it wasn’t during the season the Gil Azzurri were relegated that the club recorded its worst points tally. It was instead in the 1941/42 season – in which Napoli finished 8th in the final league table, that they managed a laughable 23 points in 30 Serie A games.
Ask any Napoli fan about the biggest success in the club’s history, and 10 out of 10 would point to the Scudetto the club won at the end of the 1986/87 campaign as the best moment in the club’s more than century-long history.
Napoli’s first Serie A title wasn’t only earth-shattering in political terms as it also had political connotations. The side had conquered Italy at a time when the anti-southern politics was finding resonance in the country’s corridors of power. Napoli winning the league title, therefore, was an act of defiance.
For years before the club’s first-ever Scudetto, the winners’ list of Serie A was a sign of economic inequality between the north and south of Italy. With the notable exception of Cagliari lifting the title in 1970, it was the first time that a side based on the South of Rome had won the Italian championship.
The man responsible for laying bare the fault lines in Italian society was none other than the Argentine legendary footballer Diego Maradona. At a time when Serie A had the likes of Michel Platini, Marco van Basten, Zico, and Lothar Matthaus, the disheveled-looking Argentine became the league’s top-scorer with ten goals. If ever there was a perfect time to be a Neapolitan, it was back then.
Like their biggest success, one of Napoli’s biggest-ever failures also comprises a whole season.
Even before the start of the 1997/98 campaign, trouble was brewing inside the Sao Paolo arena. The club was facing financial troubles (again) and was forced to sell its finest talents to the highest bidder, which means its rivals in Juventus and Milan ended up signing the likes of Fabio Pecchia and Andre Cruz.
This mass exodus of star players left the Sao Paolo residents in a bad shape. The results that followed were only reflecting the club’s position in a mirror. After drawing against Vicenza on the 3rd matchday of the season, the Gil Azzurri went on to lose six games on the spin, creating a club record.
A 1-1 draw against Fiorentina was followed by four more defeats, including a 4-0 humiliation at home against Parma and 6-3 dismemberment at Sampdoria. Their defense was so porous that season that the I Partenopei conceded more than two goals per game over 38 games. Little wonder, then, that Napoli, just a decade after winning the Scudetto, were banished to Serie B.
As Napoli returned to Serie A in the 1999/2000 campaign, Neapolitans believed that the worst was now behind them. The club had spent its past two seasons in Serie B, but was now looking on the rise under coach Walter Novellino. All that optimism turned into naught as, within a span of only five years, the club was playing in Serie C after being declared bankrupt by a court of law.
This story of the 2-time Scudetto winners going penniless is similar to the tale of other clubs who have trodden the same route. It might have been the results on the pitch that brought the matters to the head – which is why the club were relegated at the end its 1st season back in Serie A – but it were the blunders of those responsible for managing its financial affairs that led to its dissolution and relegation to Serie C.
At the end of the 2003/04 season, Napoli were facing mounting debts to the tune of £46.1 million. Debtors to whom the club owed money had sued it. Unable to pay back the money, its owners admitted in a Naples court that the club was penniless. The court made the only decision it had at its disposal: declare the two-time champions of Italy bankrupt.
Much to the utter shame of the Neapolitans, the disgrace wasn’t complete. It has been written in the Italian rules of the game that if a club cannot manage its finances, it has no right to play in the top two tiers of Italian football.
That meant that Napoli, who had never fallen below Serie B in their entire history, were ordered to play their football starting 2004/05 season in the Serie C. It would be after two more seasons that Napoli would rise again to Serie B, and three if one wants to chart their rise back to Serie A.
Here are some of the fun facts you might not know about SSC Napoli:
“Naples is not Italy”: Ahead of the Argentina Vs Italy semi-final of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, which was played in Napoli’s Sao Paolo Stadium, Maradona suggested his club fans should support the Azzurri because ‘Naples isn’t Italy’. Legend has it that some of Napoli’s ultras acted on his advice by supporting the South Americans against their own national team.
“You don’t know what you’re missing”: After the Gil Azzurri won its first-ever Scudetto in 1987, some of its fans took over the walls of the city’s graveyards, where someone wrote: “You don’t know what you’re missing”.
“Maradona’s cocaine addiction”: During the latter part of his seven-year stay in Naples, Maradona’s weekly physical conditioning regime included a cocaine binge from Sunday to Wednesday.
“Someone else peed for him”: When asked how Maradona, despite all his drug-addictions, continued to pass drug tests during his stay in Naples, the then Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino famously quipped: “Probably someone else peed for him.”
“We have Maradona”: “Our city lacks [a] mayor, houses, schools, buses, employment and sanitation,” a local newspaper at the time moaned, before adding: “but none of this matters because we have Maradona.”
“Smoking cigarettes on the touchline”: During his three-year stint as the manager of the Gil Azzurri, Maurizio Sarri could be regularly seen smoking cigarettes on the touchline during the game. Reports claim that the former-banker used to smoke 80 cigarettes a day.
“Return of the stolen watch”: Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik was the victim of theft while shopping for Christmas in December 2008. A few months later, the Slovakian was returned the stolen watch because the criminals had by then realized that he was a player for the Gil Azzurri.
“Margherita pizza for €1”: After Gonzalo Higuain’s unceremonious departure to Juventus in the summer of 2016, Show Pizza, a restaurant in Naples, took full advantage of the anger of gluttonous Neapolitans by offering this promotion: a Margherita pizza for only €1 when the Argentine suffers his first injury in Turin.
“We need you … on the bench”: Kalidou Koulibaly has revealed that on the night his wife was to go into labor to give birth to their first son, Napoli were playing a game in the Serie A. Maurizio Sarri begged the Senegalese to leave his wife in the hospital and come back just for the 90 minutes of action. Reluctantly, the center-back returned to the dressing room, only to find that his manager had placed him on the bench.
Details are provided on the age of players, games played, minutes played, goals conceded, games conceded with no goals, yellow cards, red cards, yellow cards.
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