Napoli head into their first title defence in over three decades with questions as to whether new management will be up to replicating last season’s stunning charge to glory. Rudi Garcia will make his official debut on Saturday as Napoli kick off the 2023/24 campaign at promoted Frosinone with a similar line-up to the one which cruised to the Scudetto and became Italy’s fourth different champions in as many years. The Frenchman replacing title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti is the key factor in doubts over Napoli’s credentials this season.
Garcia has bucked a trend by leaving Saudi Arabia, sacked by Al Nassr in April not long after they signed Cristiano Ronaldo and before the country’s clubs began a mega-money feeding frenzy in Europe.
The 59-year-old is familiar with Italian football thanks to his time with Roma, whom he guided to Champions League football in 2014 and 2015 and like Spalletti has plenty of charisma.
But his only trophies as a manager came 12 years ago when he won the league and cup double with Lille, the Europa League final with Marseille in 2018 and a French League Cup final with Lyon two years later the closest he has come to glory since then.
– Stars staying –
Playing in his favour is Napoli keeping hold of star striker Victor Osimhen, who is likely to sign a contract extension until 2026 in the coming weeks and will again lead the way after scoring 31 goals last season.
Osimhen’s attacking partner in attacking crime Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was never likely to leave but it’s a sign of how healthy Napoli are structurally that last term’s top scorer and breakout star are more than happy to stay put.
And bar Kim Min-jae, who has left for Bayern Munich, Napoli have kept hold of everyone involved in the Scudetto triumph while none of their rivals have had a blockbuster summer in the transfer market.
Both of the Milan clubs need to sign a striker, with Inter losing both Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku and so far only replacing them with Marcus Thuram — whose tally of 16 with Borussia Moenchengladbach last season was his personal best — and likely veteran Marko Arnautovic.
The losing Champions League finalists also spent longer than many thought necessary to sign goalkeeper Yann Sommer for six million euros after bagging nearly 10 times that number by selling Andre Onana to Manchester United.
Milan meanwhile have put the whopping fee obtained from Newcastle United for Sandro Tonali to good use, bringing in eight new players including two more from Chelsea in Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
However they have no real deputy up front for former Blues man Olivier Giroud, who is 36 years old and cannot be relied upon to lead the line on his own over a gruelling campaign which ends with Euro 2024.
– Rivals uncertain –
And the players they have brought in are either looking to revive their careers or exciting young players at a pivotal moment, such as Yunus Musah or Samuel Chukwueze, who are yet to fully establish themselves.
Lazio, who finished closest to Napoli last season, lost star man Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to Saudi money but in Taty Castellanos have finally got someone who can back up ageing club icon Ciro Immobile.
Traditional powerhouse Juventus are out of Europe this year thanks to a UEFA ban for financial fair play violations related to the scandals which dogged their entire campaign last time out.
With a reset required Juve have kept it low key, Timothy Weah from Lille their highest-profile signing as they try to clear out dead wood and recalibrate costs.
Atalanta can no longer be considered a surprise package after establishing themselves as one of Italy’s best run clubs.
But after bringing in the likes of Gianluca Scamacca and El Bilal Toure another fun, attacking season awaits in Bergamo and the top four is a realistic target with the rest of the division’s top clubs in a state of uncertainty.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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- Rudi Garcia The Key As Napoli Begin Their Serie A Title Defence | Football News
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