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Napoli’s current infatuation with Uruguayan super striker Edinson Cavani and Argentinean pocket rocket Ezequiel Lavezzi is something of a reoccurring theme in a city obsessed with football and it’s South American imports. A look back through the history books of the Vesuviani demonstrates the fact that the Vesuvani and it’s supporters have always embraced players who have arrived in Campania from Latin America.

In 1952, Argentinean left winger Bruno Pesaola arrived in Napoli after spells at Roma and Novara. He went on to make 240 appearances for the club, scoring 27 goals over an eight year period. Pesaola was one of the original oriundi (naturalised Italian from Latin America) and made just one appearance for the Italian national team in 1957 ironically, it was against Argentina. Such was Pesaola’s love of the Neapolitan way of life, he became manager of the club on three separate occasions, from 1962-68, 1976-77 and 1982-83. Three years after Pesaola joined the club, president Achille Lauro introduced a player that would go on to become a Napoli legend, his name was  Luís Vinício. Nicknamed “the lion” for his dynamic display’s, Vinício  formed a devastating partnership with Pesaola over a five year period between 1955-60. In a 152 appearances for the Vesuviani, he netted on 69 occasions and was the darling of the tifosi at the Stadio San Paolo. Despite being born in Brazil, Vinício spent his entire playing career in Italy and just like his good friend and teammate, managed the club on two separate occasions from 1973-76 and 1978-80.

The 1960′s saw the love affair with South America continue when Argentinean superstar Omar Sívori joined the Southerners from Juventus. Sívori will  be best  remembered for his spell in Turin where he scored 134 times in 215 appearances. After eight years with the Bianconeri, Sívori moved South where he spent four seasons with Napoli between 1965-69. Although Sívori  only made 63 appearances for the club, he propelled the Vesuviani to a third place finish in his first season. Alongside Sívori was Brazilian scoring sensation  José Altafini who was transferred from AC Milan in 1965. The striker spent seven years in Campania and made 180 appearances for the club scoring 71 times. In his final season with the club, he almost helped them to a Coppa Italia win but sadly, his former employers Milan, took the trophy with a 2-0 win.

In 1982 Argentinean striker  Ramón Diaz arrived at the club from River Plate, for once, a South American player failed to make an impression and Diaz was sold to Avellino after just one season at the San Paolo. However, just two years later, the fortunes of Southern Italy’s biggest club were about to be transformed forever. The 30th of June 1984 is the most significant date in the history of Napoli calcio, the day Diego Armando Maradona arrived in a then world record transfer fee of 12 million euros from Barcelona. Within three years, the club were kings of Italy winning both the Scudetto and Coppa Italia in 1987. Maradona quickly assumed god like status in the city and almost guided the club to back to back championships but they were pipped to the post by Milan. A year later, Maradona had more silverware in his hands as the club won the UEFA Cup, a year after that, they had their second Serie A title. Maradona spent seven years in Napoli making 188 appearances and scoring 81 goals. But it wasn’t all about one man, in 1987, the brilliant Brazilian striker Careca joined the club from São Paulo, the two players together were absolutely unstoppable, Careca spending six seasons with the club making 161 appearances and scoring 73 goals -  this was the golden era of Neapolitan football.

In 1992, with the club falling into decline after the departures of both Maradona and Careca, a talented young striker from Uruguay was brought to the club. Daniel Fonseca arrived from Cagliari and produced some mesmeric displays in his two years at the club. Fonseca scored 31 times in 58 appearances and will be best remembered by the tifosi for his five goal haul in a UEFA Cup tie against Valencia. Unfortunately for the Vesuviani, his scoring exploits alerted Roma and with Napoli in financial dire straits, the club transferred their mercurial little striker to the capital in 1994. The new millennium was not a particularly happy time for the Vesuviani but in 2004 they signed Argentinean striker Roberto Sosa from Messina. The big forward became something of a cult hero at the San Paolo and over a four year spell, made 116 appearances for the club scoring 28 times as the club battled back from financial collapse and demotion to the Italian third division, to regain their rightful place in Serie A. Sosa returned to his native Argentina in 2008 but is still highly regarded in Southern Italy. So now the baton passes to Cavani and Lavezzi as the cycle of South American footballers playing at the San Paolo goes into the new decade. At a club where passion for the game runs into epic proportions, history tells us that they will certainly not be the last.

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