Despite a season of maintaining our position as the club most likely to challenge Juve to the Scudetto, there has been a palpable lull in enthusiasm towards the club from the fair folk of Naples and many partenopei around the globe. Initially, I was baffled by this – we have a wonderful coach, some very exciting players and have, at times, played beautiful football up there with the glory days of Sarri’s team. But, there is a disconnect between the club and the city – how can we solve this? Over the course of this three part series, I’m going to put forward my thoughts as to how we can reinvigorate the club and… try to permanently position ourselves at the top Calcio table.
The centre of this argument is: Instead of spending hundreds of millions of Euro to try and be Juve – what would an alternative model look like? A model which places the club at the heart of the community and which creates the La Masia of the South of Italy. We might not topple Juve but we would have a club that represents the citta and that all partenopei can be proud.
The first stage of this model is a re-vamp of the Youth Facilities. Let’s take a look at the what we currently have:-
Current State of Play – Youth Facilities
The Napoli Primavera currently sits in 7th place in the table one point behind Juventus. After 21 games, they have scored 28 goals (considerably the lowest in the top 9 places) and have shipped 31. This looks respectable on paper and I rate Roberto Baronio as a coach. In Gianluca Gaetano we have, alongside Torino’s Vincenzo Millico, the best Italian youth prospect in the league and he currently lies joint third in the goal scoring charts (12 goals, also having scored 14 last season).
The league have started streaming some Primavera games (keep an eye on @seriea at weekends) and I’ve watched them play a few times this season. To say that we are a one player team is an understatement. Gaetano is on a different universe to the rest of the side – playing as a left sided attacking midfielder, he creates and scores the majority of our play. Having watched the last minute 1-0 defeat to Milan, the 1-1 draw with Juve and the 5-1 humiliation against Roma I’d say there is no one else in the team that has any kind of chance of making the step up to the first team.
Whilst it is wonderful to have a talent like Gaetano on the books, his emergence is papering over a huge amount of cracks – Baronio is doing his best with very little resources. In terms of facilities, the club recently signed a two year deal with Complesso Kennedy in Naples. It looks like a decent setup (see below) but despite ADL making positive noises in the summer, the club does not own this facility. Yes, a club the size of Napoli does not own any facilities for its youth team and we were left embarrassed over the summer when the usual facility, Centro Sportivo di Sant’Antimo, was closed down.
So, stage 1: purchase facilities for the youth team.
By Frank Sidekick and Massimo Nuzzo