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Aurelio de Laurentiis, clearly a man with a sense of the epic, seems intent on building upon the Partonopei’s already stratospheric rise. As Napoli enters the grandest of all European stages - the Champions League -  will their ascendency continue, or will added responsibility impinge upon their domestic ambitions, leaving them stranded on both fronts?

Sampdoria serve as a sorry and too obvious example as to how capricious fate can be; twelve months prior, il ‘Doria’s fans enjoyed the dreams currently being dreamt by Napoli’s faithful tifosi. But history will show that a season that started on the cusp of the Champions League, ended in the ignominy of relegation – a prophetic lesson for De Laurentiis maybe? Definitely not.

Without any doubt, Napoli is a wholly different entity to Sampdoria, and any comparisons between the two should cease immediately, as this assessment of the former will illustrate.

The Partonopei have so far observed the first rule of progression, namely consolidation. While some of Europe’s biggest names court Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez, (Napoli included), it’s testament to the resolve of De Laurentiis that Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and most notably Edinson Cavani have been conspicuously absent from this summer’s rumour mill.

From La Liga to the Premiership, interest shown in Alexis Sanchez is inescapable, yet possibly, it should be Cavini (with more than twice the number of goals of Sanchez), and Lavezzi (with double the amount of assists) that dominate the column inches. But no, as fellow Champion’s League contenders Udinese enter into yet another selling phase, Walter Mazzarri will not only have the same squad for next season, but an enhanced squad at that – interestingly, at Udinese’s expense.

With this week’s histrionic filled unveiling of Gokhan Inler, (formerly of Udinese naturally), Napoli have made their intentions clear. Not only are they adding depth, but in Inler, a player of discernable quality. The sought after Suisse international will oil their midfield with a blend of measured tackling, dextrous feet and assured passing to quickly and effectively turn defence into attack.

Prior to the switch, Inler had a list of suitors which reportedly included some of Europe’s more revered names. Therefore, electing to join Mazzarri’s squad speaks volumes about the potential Inler himself, feels is inherent within Napoli. Once free from the rather bizarre lion mask, Inler declared;

“I have chosen Napoli to win and fulfil my dreams: the dream of the Scudetto, the dream of the Champions League and the Italian Cup. Everything. Just everything!”

But can Napoli remain as contenders on three very competitive fronts?

As discussed, by consolidating last year’s squad and adding players of complimentary quality Napoli are laying formidable foundations. To cope with the demands of Champions League and to remain a Serie A force requires a degree of depth that new acquisitions can bring, but don’t let the suddenness of Napoli’s success fool you, the Partonopei have deservedly arrived at this exciting juncture by existing virtue.

Statistics prove that during the course of a demanding season, one that critically included Europa Cup football, Napoli proved themselves as a resolute unit. Understandably, being beguiled by the highly charismatic attacking trident of Lavezzi, Hamsik and Cavani is easy, given the trio amassed more goals than all but three other teams – but maybe more remarkably - Mazzarri possessed a relatively unsung defence who were only surpassed by the champions, AC Milan, in terms of fewest goals conceded.

So, with the infrastructure seemingly in place and likely to be tweaked again before the transfer window closes, what can Napoli hope to achieve this coming season?

Rather than look towards the ill fated Sampdoria, Napoli would be better served looking at Tottenham Hotspur to illustrate the pros and cons of trying to compete on two, incredibly testing fronts.

Spurs put the peninsulas finest to the sword during an entertaining Champions League adventure. A charge which saw the north London club account for scudetto winners AC Milan - en route to a quarter final defeat to Real Madrid - ultimately however, while Tottenham’s time amongst Europe’s elite was an enthralling and a significant revenue generator, the strain manifested in their domestic form.

In the end, Harry Redknapp’s men ran out of gas and fell short of securing Champions League football for this coming term and, being perfectly candid, this same fate could befall Napoli, certainly with a number of Serie A’s top four contenders comprehensively regrouping.

A new look Roma will be keen to return to Europe’s top flight while their city rivals Lazio are also investing in order to improve upon last season’s fifth place finish. With Inter and AC Milan primed for another title assault, another top four berth looks a tough ask notwithstanding the added demands placed upon a side expected to incrementally improve each season. So, while Aurelio De Laurentiis and Walter Mazzarri are making the right pragmatic moves, the task ahead is no picnic.

While one has to admire the chutzpah in Inler’s initial hoorah, the prospect of ‘Everything. Just Everything’ may just have to be moderated somewhat. Like Spurs, Napoli has sufficient quality to impress in the Champions League, but it is most unlikely that the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United can be usurped by the relative minnow that is Napoli.

Instead, success for the Partonopei this season should come in the form of advancing through the Champions League group stages and also remaining as a top four Serie A force.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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  • xc

    “and also remaining as a top four Serie A force.”

    top three! fourth place is a ticket for the EL.

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