Pick Your Napoli Team of the Past 50 YearsBy: Neil | September 4th, 2013
With very little to write about – the current squad is flying high and likely to compete for the scudetto – it’s time to look at a little bit of history. In 1962 Napoli won the Coppa Italia for their first major trophy. Since then there have been 3 more Coppe (and 4 runners up) plus two scudetti (and 5 runners up in Serie A.) Throw in a UEFA Cup in 1990 and it’s clear there have been a lot of great players at Napoli over the years. But which ones would fit into a starting 11 and which would have to settle for the bench? After the jump Dave Taylor kicks things off with his selection of Napoli greats since 1962.
Only two basic rules: there must be a formation (I doubt anyone will go for Mazzarri’s 3-5-2) and the bench has room for only 7 players. Here is Dave Taylor’s team:
GK — CLAUDIO GARELLA 1985-88 (88 appearances)
A difficult choice here between Zoff and the one and only Garellik but I have gone for Mr Garella because I saw him and he was incredible and I am not the only to believe that. When training together with him, Diego remarked: “Every now and then he would pull something off which was incredible and I just don’t know how he did it.” He was the most original of goalkeepers winning league titles with teams that had never won titles before like Verona and Napoli, and after the Verona win Maradona told Napoli he wanted him as their new number one. He was a massive goalkeeper whose awesome versatility saw him parry with feet, belly and buttocks. He arrived over the summer of 1985 and went onto to be a protagonist in the 1987 double winning side. He was one of the four who revolted against the then Coach Ottavio Bianchi along with Ferrario, Salvatore Bagni and Bruno Giordano and was sold to Udinese.
D — TARCISIO BURGNICH 1974-77 (84)
Perhaps the Rock only played three seasons with Napoli but he only missed four games and all in his last season. Perhaps his best performances were with Inter where he won four titles and two European Cups. However, Coach Luis Vinicio knew Napoli needed a top class defender, got him for nothing and was rewarded with an utter professional. The man himself eagerly agreed and felt he could still give something to Napoli. He disputed an extraordinary season and at 36 played in all 30 league games and was the decisive factor in that wonderful Napoli side that finished 2nd in 1974-1975 and is up there with the very best of Italian defenders.
D — CIRO FERRARA 1984-94 (322)
Born in the city and a graduate of the youth side the central defender made his full debut in 1984 and became a fully-fledged first teamer the following season. Like Maradona he was a principal of the two Serie A titles team and played in almost 250 league games. A tough-tackling, no holds barred player who showed a character of steel that allowed him to always be a leader on and off the field. He also liked to joke that players like Maradona, Careca, Baggio, Vialli, Del Piero and Zidane were just a few who had the honour and good fortune to play alongside him.
D — GIUSEPPE BRUSCOLOTTI-1972-88 (511)
It was written in the stars that the Sorrento born Pal e’ Fierr (Iron Pole) would one day play for Napoli. Joining the Azzurri in the summer 1972 the central defender stayed for 16 seasons supervising the back line year in year out. A significant bandiera he worked his way into the record book as the player with most appearances for Napoli with 511 in total. He also absolutely delighted in “destroying those pesky forwards from northern teams.” The highest point in his career came after handed over his captain’s armband to Maradona and the Partenopei won their first Scudetto. In his last season he hardly played just wanting the chance to play with the iconic crest on his jersey. A symbol he had fought for more than a decade and a half. And who can blame him?
D — RUUD KROL 1980-84 (107)
The captain of Ajax and Holland was a versatile defender who could play anywhere in defence and although he played as sweeper he excelled at left back for the Azzurri. A great reader of the game his Majesty was loved by fans and when he first put his foot on the San Paolo turf he was greeted with a roar that even Popes cannot muster nowadays. He was elegance personified and truly one of the top five defenders of all time. He had everything, class, a chilling coldness, pinpoint accuracy and a sense of anticipation most could only dream of. Manager Antonio Juliano had wait until the borders opened again to foreign footballers before Ruud could move to Napoli but it was worth the wait. Season ticket sales rocketed and thanks mainly to him Napoli arrived third that season. At the time there was also a referendum on abortion and there was a poster that read “Fans who vote for abortion think about it. Krol! Imagine if his mother had had an abortion?” Enough said.
M — FERNANDO DE NAPOLI 1986-92 (176)
Another Campania born hero who was brought in after being suggested by Diego and he helped relieve Maradona of his midfield duties and it worked perfectly. In his six years with the Partenopei he became Napoli’s most capped Italian with 49 appearances and helped them win 2 league titles, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Italian Cup and a European Super Cup. Brought in from Avellino he played in two World Cups and still flourished after leaving Napoli, winning two Scudetti with Milan as well. A tough but accomplished midfielder, he did the hard work so the rest of the team could function.
M — ANTONIO JULIANO 1962-78 (394)
Born in Naples and a graduate from the youth teams for almost two decades Totonno dominated the Napoli midfield, notching up over 500 games in total. Making his debut in February 1963 it was a hard time for the club with a couple of seasons in Serie B, but as the 70’s approached they became a steady force in Serie A and along with Altafini and Sivori that trio was invincible. Despite not winning the championship, Juliano, who became in 1966 captain at just 23, led the team to two second places and three third spots. He didn’t go completely without triumphs though as he played in the victorious 1968 European Championship. After retiring he became a Napoli director and played a key part in bringing Ruud Krol and later Maradona to the club.
M — MAREK HAMSIK 2006- (264 and counting)
After his contract extension the Slovakian seems to have become the club’s bandiera. Seen as the team’s main man, Benitez intends to build his side around the 26-year-old magician. Last season he scored 11 goals while contributing a A17 assists, almost a third of Napoli’s total directly and Maradona only knows, how many indirectly. Superb on the ball he drifts by defenders like a ballerina among sumo wrestlers. Hamsik may not be a natural No.10 but he has matured as a playmaker and is also intelligent in the way he spreads play from flank to flank. Hopefully he continues to shine for some time yet and even beat Maradona’s record of appearances. “I love the city and one day I would love to beat Diego Maradona’s record of appearances as I have many years ahead of me as a Napoli player,” he admitted recently.
ACM – DIEGO MARADONA-1984-92 (259)
There will only ever one Il Pibe and if Lionel Messi is valued at £185-215m according to the Swiss based CIES Football Observatory then how much would Diego be worth nowadays. When he was the world’s most expensive footballer he won two Serie A titles, when Milan had one of the greatest sides of all-time, a UEFA Cup, then a far more difficult tournament to win, the Italian Cup and a Supercup. Plus he had the love of a whole region and an incredible reality hit him on 5 July 1974 at noon. He literally was shaken to the core under the weight of a primordial passion that saw sixty thousand people flock to welcome him to the San Paolo. He had never seen anything like it. He swayed and leant against his wife: “Claudia Help me! Help me to bear this wave of love. Help me to not let them down. Help me, because they are so similar to me!”
In those days the only thing in blue greater than Diego was the sky. He may have walked like a gay penguin in a Toronto Zoo but boy could he power past the shark-like defenders of Serie A. His explosive pace could leave his markers as serene and in control as a crate of sweating gelignite and for Napoli fans the Partenopean Deity showed the world exactly how to play football.
F — CARECA 1987-92 (164)
Careca arrived at the San Paolo after scoring 25 goals for Sao Paolo and five for Brazil at the 1986 world cup. As a proven goal scorer he formed a breathtaking partnership with Maradona and along with Bruno Giordano they formed the aptly named Ma-Gi-Ca trident in the Napoli attack. A speedy, direct and intelligent striker he was never challenged as Napoli’s main target man and shared the scoring duties with Maradona in a Neapolitan version of the classic “small guy/big guy” partnership. After Maradona left and other key players started to flee as the club’s economy deteriorated Careca stayed longer than he had to in loyalty to the fans and the club that brought him his most memorable moments. After forming a new partnership with the young Gianfranco Zola, Careca eventually left to end his career in Japan after scoring 73 goals.
F — EDINSON CAVANI 2010-13 (104)
The Matador arrived from Palermo and scored twice as Napoli beat Elfsborg 2-0 in the Europa League on his full debut in September. It was the start of a spectacular campaign that saw him score a magnificent 26 goals to push Napoli into third spot and the Champions League. In Europe he scored five goals in eight games, including strikes against Chelsea and Manchester City. Meanwhile in the League his 23 goals saw Napoli finish in fifth spot that following season. However, in 2012-13 he moved into overdrive and scored 29 goals becoming top scorer. Yet Cavani’s impact was not just about goals. It was his ability to break down attacks from the front and more than pull his weight at the back that was integral to Napoli’s success. Today Cavani is the club’s third most prolific striker after Maradona and Attila Sallustro and those 104 goals also included nine hat-tricks along with 15 penalties.
Bench: Dino Zoff, Omar Sivori, Jose Altafini, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianfranco Zola, Giuseppe Savoldi, Bruno Giordano.
Great team you’ve got there Dave. Anyone have a different starting 11?