By 90Min
June 01, 2018

When Carlo Ancelotti was appointed as Napoli head coach, it was seen as an undoubted master stroke from residing president Aurelio De Laurentiis, and rightly so. The 69-year-old film producer had somehow managed to cajole a fan base into rejoicing around their prospects for a season without Maurizio Sarri. 

Under most parameters, Ancelotti was the ideal man to replace the former banker who, despite his eventual failure in the hunt for a first Scudetto since 1990, arguably carved his place as the club's greatest ever manager with his effusive style of play. There was substance to this style, of course - breaking the club's record points tally twice in a row speaks for itself.

However, despite subsequently procuring the most decorated manager still working, question marks remain about Napoli's progression next season. Indeed, the main reason Ancelotti is now in the hot seat is that Sarri seemed overly reluctant to stay at the club after Pepe Reina's exit, presumably knowing others would follow. 


Because, in all likelihood a fresh face between the sticks will not be the only enforced acquisition for Carlo. Captain Fantastic and club record goalscorer Marek Hamsik has suggested he could end his 11 year spell in Naples. 

Moreover, the relatively meagre buy-out clauses present in the contracts of Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Faouzi Ghoulam mean it's imaginable that at least one - and at worst all - of those players will leave this summer. 

Indeed at 30, 31 and 31 respectively, you could not begrudge the first three names there a last chance at a high profile move. Unless you're Ancelotti, of course.

In many ways, Sarri's 91 point haul for second position signified the end of the road for this particular side. In accordance with the age of the squad, last season had the feel of a last chance saloon for those players, and clearly for Sarri too. 

As is always the case, the end of the road offers far more questions of a team than it answers - where to go from here, being the most prominent. There's simply no precedent for collecting 91 points in a Serie A season (with 20 teams and 3 points for a win) and still coming up short. Such a realisation is sure to dawn on this group at one point, if it hasn't already.

Even though Ancelotti's greatest skill is that of mental fortification, this has been most successful when combined with a team brimming with talent and potential, but low on confidence - think Real Madrid in 2013, or Chelsea in 2009. Indeed, more strident detractors of his would perhaps cast him as the Italian Harry Redknapp - with far more medals of course. 

After replacing Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in 2016, the German side struggled to acclimatise to the former Chelsea manager's hands off approach. The fall in intensity from Pep to Ancelotti was a steep one, and by the end of his reign the players were completely disenchanted. They even started organising their own secret training sessions to combat the lackadaisical ones they were receiving.

Although he will clearly inherit a talented squad in Naples, the current potential of the side appears maxed out. This is where the summer transfer window reappears, and assumes even more importance. While the aforementioned outgoings will be significant, it won't be nearly as crucial as the incoming recruits.

With Napoli currently paying two managers not inconsiderable amounts of money, at least until they finalise the negotiations with Chelsea (or anyone else) regarding Sarri's release clause, it is unclear how large the 58-year-old's 'war chest' will be, or whether it will be fit to be called so.

What we do know is that Chelsea's incumbent manager Antonio Cone had entered into talks with De Laurentiis before Ancelotti's appointment, but was discouraged by an inability to sign the players he desired. Based on that, the club will evidently have to rely on the substantial influence that Ancelotti's name can have on potential players. 

David Ramos/GettyImages

There have already been whispers of Karim Benzema joining from Real Madrid, and these mutterings will surely only get louder following Zinedine Zidane's decision to resign. The Italian established a fruitful relationship with the Frenchman during his time with Los Blancos, and the 30 year old would be a canny signing. 

Further additions of a similar calibre will be fundamental to Ancelotti's success, however. In his capacity as a rich man's Redknapp (mi dispiace, Carlo), the former midfielder requires reputable shoulders to wrap his compassionate arms around. For his sake, I hope Napoli can provide him with a sufficient set of shoulders.

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