Rafael Benitez’s Napoli are now favourites to win next season’s Serie A title in the wake of Antonio Conte’s Juventus exit.
The Italian giants, who finished in third place last year in a season that also saw them win the Coppa Italia, have strengthened with the loan signing of Swansea City forward Michu whilst are also reported to be in advanced talks with German international Christoph Kramer.
Juventus have swooped for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and are expected to tie up a deal for Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra soon, yet face a stern challenge to keep midfield duo Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba out of the clutches of Europe’s finest.
Last season’s champions will also have to adapt to life under new manager Massimiliano Allegri, who despite winning the title with AC Milan back in 2011 was sacked by the Italian outfit in January after overseeing one of the worst campaigns in recent memory.
Conte was the mastermind behind Juventus’ unprecedented period of dominance, and many expect the high standards to drop now another man is at the helm.
Transitional period over
Napoli contrastingly have the look of a side that can blitz themselves to a first Serie A title since 1990, when Diego Maradona inspired them to glory on that occasion.
Another Argentine will be crucial to their title assault this forthcoming campaign – former Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain having enjoyed a fine maiden season in Naples, returning 24 goals from his 44 appearances.
Higuain also recently quashed any speculation over his future, having been linked with Barcelona and Liverpool during the World Cup.
Benitez himself will be much more accustomed to the club having arrived last season after leaving Chelsea, with the Coppa Italia triumph a possible springboard for plenty of silverware to follow.
Michu’s addition is positive, although the Spaniard faces a difficult task breaking into an attacking line-up already consisting of the likes of Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon.
The loss of loanee goalkeeper Pepe Reina is a huge blow with his wage demands and transfer fee said to be scuppering any move from Liverpool on a permanent basis, although have been linked with a move for countryman Diego Lopez.
Higuain will be key for Napoli again next season
This Napoli squad has the potential to become one of the greatest sides ever seen in Italian football.
There is no notable weakness, and in Benitez possess a manager with the experience and knowledge to win the biggest trophies on the planet.
Juventus are strong but the ball is in Napoli’s court now. An era of potential dominance now lies in wait.