Move aside Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan, Napoli are going to win Serie A next season.
Despite having lost Ezequiel Lavezzi the previous season, Napoli still managed to qualify for the Champions League with their highly respected coach, Walter Mazzari and their goalscoring hitman, Edinson Cavani in 2012/13.
However, their current season starts with both Mazzari and Cavani at different clubs. Nevertheless, club president, Aurelio Di Laurentiis, has produced a selection of master-class signings for the club which not only negate the loss of Mazzari and Cavani, but also boost them to genuine Serie A contenders.
The first arrival was Champions League winning coach, Rafa Benitez. Having built a legacy with Liverpool, he moved onto Inter to succeed Jose Mourinho. Although he was unable to replicate 'The Special One' at Inter Milan, he does have the required experience in the Italian League. With his attacking approach and preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Napoli can certainly thrive.
The Spaniard then went on a poaching trip to his birthplace and brought in Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon and Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid for a combined total of £50.7million. None of these players were assured of starting games at Real Madrid, and a move away was what they required. However, all three of them are stars.
No one can deny Higuain’s ability to score goals and I personally feel that he’s a perfect replacement for Edinson Cavani. He’s definitely capable of scoring at least 20 goals this season.
Raul Albiol on the other hand is definitely what Napoli required in defence - some stability. Whilst Jose Callejon was a Champions League spark for Jose Mourinho’s Madrid. He is electric in his pace and dribbling, and can play either on the wings, as a number 10 or as a centre forward.
He then went on to buy Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Cabral from Santos from £4.3million. Benitez, however, felt that he needed some competition for Rafael and thus brought in Pepe Reina on loan from his former club Liverpool. The ex-Chelsea manager then made what I felt was his best signing this transfer window in Dries Mertens from PSV for £8.2million.
Mertens is a Belgian international and he definitely needed a move to a Champions League club in order to boost his World Cup 2014 chances. He not only adds pace but also goals, which is needed for a team who were overly reliant on Edinson Cavani the past few seasons.
Napoli are also close to signing Liverpool centre back, Martin Skrtel on loan. They don’t seem to be done with that either. They are further linked with Alvaro Arbeloa from Real Madrid, Jackson Martinez from FC Porto and Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona.
Add these signings to an already star-studded squad - including: Marek Hamsik, Valon Behrami, Christian Maggio, Andrea Dossena, Goran Pandev, Inler, Cannovaro and Lorenzo Insigne - and I can't see why Napoli can not win Serie A next season.
Rafa Benitez is sure to shed the attacking 3-4-3 formation at Napoli and bring in a more stabilized 4 man defence. That could even prove successful against bigger teams in Europe and could produce a successful Champions League campaign.
All in all, the time for Napoli and Rafa Benitez is now. Expect him to recreate the Liverpool success in the Italian League.
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