The highly-anticipated return of Serie A is here, with last season’s dominant champions, Napoli, aiming to retain their title. After an exhilarating previous season, rivals such as Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan—along with potential dark horse Lazio—are poised to challenge and potentially outperform Napoli as the new season gets underway.
Rebirth of Italian Football
The 2022/23 season marked a renaissance for Serie A, delivering a campaign that won’t soon be forgotten. Unlike other top European leagues, which mostly stuck to the script with their traditional powerhouses claiming titles, Italy witnessed a seismic shift. Napoli secured their first championship since 1990, breaking the stranglehold of the ‘Big Three’—AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus—for the first time since 2001.
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Napoli’s Triumph was No Fluke!
This wasn’t mere chance; Napoli commanded the season from the get-go and clinched the title with a substantial 16-point lead over the second-placed Lazio. But the story of the season wasn’t limited to Napoli’s monumental title win; Italian teams also asserted their prowess on the international stage, making it to the finals in all three major European tournaments.
While Inter in the Champions League, Roma in the Europa League, and Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League each fell short in the finals, their journeys were nonetheless emblematic of the unmistakable rise in the caliber of Italian football.
Can Napoli Defend the Title?
After years of near-misses and tantalizingly close runs, Napoli finally found their winning formula under the guidance of manager Luciano Spalletti last season. A transformative summer in 2022 saw the exit of club legends like Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne, making way for a youthful, dynamic squad.
With Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen leading the charge and the addition of winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, the pair formed a devastating partnership that left Serie A defenses in disarray. This culminated in their securing the championship with five matches still on the calendar.
Although their 5-1 demolition of Juventus was last season’s standout performance, the prevailing sentiment is that replicating such triumphs this season will be an uphill battle.
Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia to Lead the Charge
As the club anxiously awaits a still-pending new contract for Osimhen, retaining both him and Kvaratskhelia has been a vital off-season objective. Yet they enter the new campaign grappling with significant shifts both on the field and in the boardroom.
Key defender Kim Min-Jae has transferred to Bayern Munich, and in a surprising turn, manager Luciano Spalletti has opted for a year-long hiatus from football, paving the way for Rudi Garcia to take the reins.
Though Garcia brings with him a track record of success at Roma and Lille, questions linger about his compatibility with Napoli’s distinct ethos. Adding to these uncertainties is the fact that Garcia hasn’t managed a European club since his 2021 departure from Lyon, most recently coaching Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the impact of sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli’s departure to arch-rival Juventus remains a looming question mark as the new season gets underway.
Defending their Serie A crown will undoubtedly be a steep climb for the Partenopei. Nonetheless, with a roster that can hold its own against any in the league, and if Garcia can build upon the foundation laid by Spalletti, they stand a genuine chance of pulling it off. At the very least, Napoli supporters are expecting a spirited title defense and a vigorous challenge for the championship. Anything short of a top-four finish would be considered the bare minimum.