Scudetto Scassat’: How Napoli’s Nightmare Season Unfolded after Spalletti’s Scudetto Success

The 4th of May 2023 will remain forever etched into Neapolitan folklore for the future to behold as Societa Sportiva Calcio Napoli secured their first Scudetto in over 30 years, last conquering Il Tricolore with a star-studded team of Diego Maradona, Careca and Gianfranco Zola. The city had exploded at 10:37 pm local time in Naples after Victor Osimhen scored the vital goal in Udine that clinched their long awaited title and capped off the maiden journey in a season where they rediscovered their greatness.


Since Spalletti rode off into the sunset — eventually taking charge of Italy — Napoli have gone through three managers. The first, experienced in Italian football in Rudi Garcia, the second, a former manager who brought Napoli success in the 2010s, Walter Mazzarri and the third, an assistant to Spalletti before their Scudetto-winning season, Francesco Calzona. 



The quality of football under Spalletti was scintillating, and made headlines across not only all of the Italian peninsula, but across the whole of Europe. Gli Azzurri headed into the 2024/2025 season ‘ricominciando da tre’, as they managed to wear the symbol of the Scudetto on their chest after a very long time. A symbol which had Neapolitans populated far and wide doing things such as ‘scaramanzia’, which is the common Italian word, ‘superstitions’, to make sure Napoli brought home the Tricolore. 


The 29th of May 2023, it was officially announced that Luciano Spalletti would leave the club after being granted a sabbatical. The announcement came on the two-year anniversary of when he first joined the club following a break from football and the imminent sacking of Gennaro Gattuso. President De Laurentis brought in a manager like Spalletti who had one thing on his mind, winning the Serie A title.


Aurelio De Laurentiis scoured the market for the next manager to fill in the shoes of Spalletti and look to regain back-to-back successes. A silly season in the manager market which saw the likes of Luis Enrique and Julien Nagalsmann without a job and could fit the criteria to manage champions of Italy. However, the contract was given to Frenchman Rudi Garcia, who at the time was the manager of Al Nassr, in the Saudi Pro League. 


The move for Garcia received mixed reviews for the Napoli faithful with the only caveat to look at at the time was that he already had experience in Italian football, managing Roma for around two and a half years. Other than that, the tifosi dei Partenopei could not gather what kind of manager the Frenchman would be and whether he would be the right man for the job. 



The philosophy of Garcia’s game management and his style of play was to play exciting and attacking football and be able to retrieve and recover the ball as quickly as possible when lost in possession and playing neat football when faced in high-pressure moments. 


Summer came round and the defender of the Serie A season, Kim-min Jae was sold for a fee of around 50 million euros to Bayern Munich, a huge loss to a key part of the puzzle last season. The additional loss of Cristiano Giuntoli, sporting director of Napoli, was a painful pill to pillow especially losing him to bitter rivals Juventus. 


Giuntoli was at the forefront in bringing the young talent from Georgia, Khivcha Kvaratkskhelia, who received the player of the season in Serie A, with more than 20 goals and assists. Garcia had been faced with already more than enough adversity this season and didn’t seem to fulfill the faithful’s trust with a lack to try and replace key players in their success last season with other superstars in the top leagues in Europe. 


Napoli’s campaign to defend the Scudetto started off well with convincing wins to newly promoted Frosinone and a weakened Sassuolo side from the summer. One of Napoli’s summer recruits, Jens Cajuste from Reims got his debut in Serie A. The idea to sign the Swede to bolster the physical presence in midfield alongside the likes of Piotr Zielinski and Stanislav Lobotka.



Bear in mind, Napoli last season under Spalletti had only lost 4 games across the whole of the campaign including a 4-0 thrashing against Pioli’s Milan. The team had been so defensively resilient and punished teams with their attacking prowess, they became a force to be reckoned with. Their first loss under Garcia came in a 2-1 defeat in the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona against Lazio, a game which saw Serie A debutant Daichi Kamada get his first goal of the campaign. 


A draw away against Genoa left Napoli fans questioning Garcia and the tactics used in what people would say is a slightly new-look Napoli squad, but in theory not much had changed from the prior season. The football being displayed was not convincing of a championship winning side.


Their European campaign kickstarted away from home against Liga Portugal side Braga, which they scraped a vital win following an own goal from Braga defender, Sikou Niakate. In Serie A, following their win against Braga, they managed to amass 10 points from 5 games as they emphatically beat Lecce and Udinese by 4 goals however dropped vital points against Bologna and Fiorentina, led by tacticians Motta and Italiano.


Things weren’t going smooth sailing for everyone associated with Napoli as the club lost games against teams they believed they had the upper hand against. Whispers were brewing amongst the backroom and board at Napoli at whether Garcia is the right man for the job with Napoli approaching the break fair off a consecutive Scudetto success.



The posts and remarks made mid-season about the star striker Victor Osimhen rocked the footballing world. Something that had been circulated across, left a bad reputation on the football club and is something where all of it could have been inevitable. An away win against fellow Campania rivals Salernitana hushed doubters of a potential exit for the Frenchman however a week later, Garcia and Napoli’s world would turn upside down.


A disappointing 1-0 loss against a lower ranked Empoli saw Rudi Garcia’s tenure as Napoli manager nothing but finished. Four months into the job and it was time to pack his bags, according to the Napoli faithful and president Aurelio de Laurentiis. Out with the old and with in the new, De Laurentiis needed an impromptu plan to try and get Napoli back on track so they decided to call upon former manager, Walter Mazzari. 


After being inactive for a few seasons, Mazzarri felt somewhat ready to take on a Napoli team in a difficult place. With the last team he managed consisting the likes of ‘El Matador’ Cavani, Hamsik and ‘El Pocho’ Lavezzi, now he had to manage players of the calibre of Osimhen, Zielinski and Kvaratskhelia.


Mazzarri’s men came out as victors with a 2-1 win away from home against Gasperini’s Atalanta. If Atalanta was a difficult first game, a trip to the notorious Santiago Bernabeu was next on the list for Mister Mazzarri. A difficult game which saw the Neapolitans strike first with a goal from Gio Simeone turned to a four-goal thumping by the Galacticos including goals from Jude Bellingham and Joselu.



Back-to-back losses in the domestic campaign against the dons, Inter and Juventus left Napoli fans distraught with the form they have gone in this season, losing any worth of holding the Scudetto crest on their chest. Nearly a whole month after their defeat in Madrid, Napoli looked to bounce back from their poor form with a chance to go on a long Coppa Italia run but their matchup against Di Francesco’s Frosinone took a dramatic turn for the worst as they turned up and put four past Gli Azzurri in their home ground.


The season break could not come fast enough for Napoli as their nightmare continued to unfold with the Neapolitan faithful looking to go back to their ‘scaramantico’ ways, hoping Napoli can secure qualification into the Champions League. After amassing 10 points in 8 games with 3 losses and 3 wins, a draw at home to a Genoa side, managed by Gilardino, was enough to close Mazzarri’s chapter as Napoli coach. With Garcia lasting 4 months, Mazzarri merely managed 3 months in the job, consequently getting sacked.


Little did De Laurentiis know grabbing a manager available from the market so deep in the season would be so difficult but the route was similar once again, appointing someone who has close connections with the club. The next man in line was current Slovakia head coach Francesco Calzona, who was heir to Spalletti when the Tuscan first joined back in 2021 so Calzona has a rough idea of the whole system of how SSC Napoli works.


Similar to Mazzarri, his first game would be a difficult one, a first leg game against Catalan side FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Calzona came in looking to reignite this Napoli squad with their fast-paced attacking movements and make the most of the possession in high maintenance scenarios. 



A 1-1 draw at home seemed to somewhat please the Neapolitans as they knew they had a fighting chance to grab something in the second leg. As time under Francesco Calzona went on, he managed to revive the spark from key player Khvicha Kvaratkshelia who was rampant in a 6-1 win against Sassuolo, with him and Osimhen combining for the majority of the goals.


The second leg came round and I Partenopei got into a shaky start with the Catalan side peppering chances from all angles and capitalised with two back-to-back goals in quick succession in the first half. Calzona’s side fought on creating key chances and a goal from defender Amir Rrahmani left Napoli fans holding their breath thinking a goal would be vital heading into the final stages but the dagger was placed by Robert Lewandowski late in the second half nd Napoli’s run in Europe ended at the hands of Barcelona.


A chance to redeem their Scudetto had been gone and a shock exit in the Coppa Italia, this stage in the Champions League was their final hope to revive their season. Following their exit in Europe, Gli Azzurri went on to only win one game out of ten in the final stage of the season, leaving Napoli fans outraged.


The worst came where a chance to qualify into European football was still possible with a home win against already saved Lecce but Napoli could not muster the chance to nick a win and had to settle for a draw and a 10th-place finish in the 2024/2025 season.



Dalle stelle alle stalle, Napoli’s nightmare rocked the whole city of Naples as the Neapolitan population were shocked by how a season could go so possibly wrong and how every decision made seemed to be a domino effect and correlated to the performance of the players on the pitch.


This must be a season that requires heavy reflection for everyone associated with Societa Sportiva Calcio Napoli. With Calzona relieving Napoli and coaching Slovakia for EURO 2024, the likeness of Victor Osimhen leaving Naples seems more than ever and the loss of talisman Piotr Zielinski leaves the Neapolitan side with a huge task to complete with the arrival of their new manager.


Antonio Conte looks set to take over the Napoli job with president De Laurentiis landing his first choice manager and looks to work with the former Chelsea and Spurs manager to develop Napoli into a footballing force come next season.


Ha da passa’ ‘a nuttata.


By: Lorenzo Gagliotta / @LG24Sports

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mondadori Portfolio