Napoli Had to Get Conte but Shouldn’t Change Their MO

Napoli sank so low this season that they needed to hire a universally acclaimed coach who could revive the fan base and the club’s ambitions right away, and there were only two candidates, Antonio Conte or Gian Piero Gasperini. The latter eventually decided to stay, or perhaps that was his intention all along. In hindsight, welcoming their courtship looks like a leverage play to obtain something from Atalanta, either a longer or richer contract or some reassurances on the transfer market.

Other managers, for instance, Stefano Pioli or Vincenzo Italiano, would have been better fits stylistically and more regular choices money-wise. The fact that they didn’t leave their previous teams in triumphant fashions was a considerable knock given the circumstances. In the end, the emotional element superseded the technical reservations. They needed a jolt and an intense gaffer who could revitalize the squad. Nobody is better than the former Juventus and Azzurri boss when it comes to turning things around after a wasteland of a season. It would have been a poor look had they backed out after getting so close to him. It would have been a terrible situation for the fallback.

The Economic Aspect

Napoli were helped by the fact that no other team really went after Conte this summer as he was chomping at the bit to return to the bench, preferably in Italy. It’s more likely than not that they’ll live to regret such a decision. In the end, the Azzurri went above and beyond their previous limits regarding coach’s wages, but the sums are standard for a top-level boss even in Serie A. The reported base salary is lower than what Massimiliano Allegri and José Mourinho made last year and about €1M higher if he triggers all the bonuses. Surely a lot less than the Gargantuan figures thrown around in previous months that would have made his arrival a big financial gamble. No manager has ever made more than €10M per year in Italy yet. It’s hard to imagine it’ll happen anytime soon considering the directions taken by Juventus, Milan, and Inter.

The boss and patron Aurelio De Laurentiis might not be the easiest guys to work with, but, at this point, they have been talking for nine months, if not more. That’s more than enough time to get on the same page. It’d be stunning if the honeymoon phase were short-lived. It was a minor surprise that they appointed a director with no clear ties first. That evidently wasn’t a sticking point, and they landed the plan anyway.

The Tactics

Before diving into the transfer market, they’ll have to decide which scheme to lean on. It appears it’ll be a compromise between what the Azzurri have been using for years, 4-3-3, and the manager’s go-to 3-5-2, 3-4-3, Gianluca Di Marzio reports. They had the freedom to take whichever route they preferred since they’ll have to reshape their squad significantly. Some presidents have been philosophically averse to a three-man line, or conservative schemes in general, in the past. Though, the tactical aspects didn’t seem to be a topic during the negotiation. The boss should have carte blanche, as he’s supposed to have.

An Accelerated Timetable

Napoli bringing in Conte immediately raises expectations, which would have been fairly muted otherwise, and fast-tracks their rebuild. There’s a substantial element of risk in that. Nobody would have blamed them if they were more patient and went with a promising up-and-comer, embarking on a multi-year cycle that could eventually take them back to the top of the mountain or at least a lock to make the top four consistently.

They arguably should have, but they decided to brute-force the process. It won’t be easy, but they should resist the temptation of putting together a veteran instant team that would be quite expensive and wouldn’t have a long shelf-life. Concurring on a medium-term strategy with such a demanding boss won’t be easy, but it would be the foundation for lasting success. Perhaps they’d even buck the trend that way, as the coach has several glorious but brief stints under his belt.

The Transfer Market Plans

The rumors about their targets are already flying, but their window might not really start until they sell Victor Osimhen. Such a windfall will be pivotal to offset the missed Champions League income; plus, they have reportedly set aside decent funds in previous years, not always spending all they cashed in. The rumor mill has been pretty quiet about the Nigerian star so far. The humungous wages handed to him last year and all the declarations afterward suggest they had been setting up his departure. It’d be highly entertaining to see what would happen if he didn’t go. They might have to settle for less than his release clause. They can ill-afford a long saga that takes up half of the summer, which has often happened in the past, as it’d delay all their subsequent additions.

His replacement will be telling about which direction Conte and Napoli will go. If it’s Romelu Lukaku, perhaps spending as much as Chelsea ask, which would be ludicrous given his age, salary, and the fact that he was far from dominant last season, it’d mean that the brass has embraced the manager fully, doing away with their notorious caution and pursuit of high-upside purchases. If other signings of the same ilk follow suit, they’ll be super competitive right away, but it’d be an economic bloodbath if they didn’t succeed pronto. Instead, if it’s a younger, cheaper, and less established marksman, it’d suggest that the boss has mellowed out a bit for the good of the team, which would be better in the long run.

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