Showing posts with label SSC Napoli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SSC Napoli. Show all posts

5 July 2022

Diego Maradona joins Napoli

Argentina star hailed as a ‘messiah’ by Neapolitans

Diego Maradona helped SSC Napoli to reach the top of the Italian football world
Diego Maradona helped SSC Napoli to
reach the top of the Italian football world
SSC Napoli, a club who had never won Italy’s Serie A since their formation in 1926 and lived in the shadow of the powerful clubs in the north of the country, stunned the football world on this day in 1984 by completing the world record signing of Argentina star Diego Maradona.

Maradona, who would captain his country as they won the World Cup in Mexico two years later, agreed to move to Napoli from Spanish giants Barcelona, who he had joined from Argentina club Boca Juniors in 1982.

Although the Catalan team had been keen to offload him after two years in which Maradona had never been far from controversy, his arrival in arguably the poorest major city in Italy, whose team had finished 10th and 12th in the previous two Serie A seasons, was still a sensation.

Maradona’s unveiling at the Stadio San Paolo on 5 July, 1984 attracted a crowd of 75,000 to the stadium. Napoli supporters were fanatical about their team despite their lack of success and were thrilled to have a distraction at a time when problems with housing, schools, buses, employment and sanitation were making daily life in Naples very difficult.

The world record fee of £6.9 million was funded in part by a loan arranged by a local politician. 

Napoli fans immediately identified with Maradona, who hailed from a working class background in Buenos Aires and made his name playing with a club, Boca Juniors, which represented a part of the city that was home to many ex-patriate Italians and their descendants. 

Maradona was unveiled before
75,000 fans at the Stadio San Paolo
The move to Napoli suited Maradona, who had some debts at the time but was able to pay them off with his signing-on fee and the money made by selling off his home in Catalonia.

Within three seasons, with Maradona captain, Napoli had won the Serie A championship. At a time when Italy’s north-south divide was being sharply felt in the south with a wide economic disparity between the two halves of the country, the reaction in the city was tumultuous. 

Neapolitans spilled out onto the streets to hold impromptu parties and motor cavalcades turning Naples into a carnival city for a week. Napoli fans painted coffins in the colours of northern giants Juventus and Milan and burned them in mock funerals. 

Ancient, crumbling buildings around the city were decorated with huge murals of Maradona, whose face was in every shop window. Suddenly, Diego became the most popular name for newborn baby boys.

The 1986-87 title season was only the start.  Napoli were runners-up in Serie A for the next two seasons and won the title again in 1989-90, also winning the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989 and the Italian Supercup in 1990. 

Although he was primarily an attacking midfielder rather than an out-and-out striker, Maradona was the top scorer in Serie A in 1987–88 with 15 goals, amassing 115 goals in his seven-year stay at the club, which made him Napoli’s all-time leading goalscorer until the record was surpassed by Marek Hamšík in 2017.

Maradona’s relationship with the fans soured a little after his Argentina side defeated Italy in the semi-final of the World Cup in Naples in 1990, after which it broke down completely when his cocaine use led to him repeatedly missing training sessions and some matches, leading ultimately to a 15-month ban and a departure from the club somewhat in disgrace.

Yet to many in Naples he remained a hero and shortly after his death in September 2020, Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo home ground was renamed the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The Palazzo Reale is a legacy of the wealth of Naples in the 17th and 18th centuries
The Palazzo Reale is a legacy of the wealth of
Naples in the 17th and 18th centuries
Travel tip:

In recent years, Naples has become the poorest of Italy’s major cities, but in the 17th and 18th centuries it was one of Europe's great cities and many of the city’s finest buildings are a legacy of that period. In the area around Piazza del Plebiscito, for example, you can see the impressive Palazzo Reale, which was one of the residences of the Kings of Naples at the time the city was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The palace is home to a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, both now open to the public. Close to the royal palace is one of the oldest opera houses in the world, built for a Bourbon King of Naples. Teatro di San Carlo was officially opened on 4 November 1737, some years before La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice. Part of the Bourbon legacy to Naples is the vast Reggia di Caserta, the royal palace commissioned in 1752 by Charles VII of Naples and built by the Italian architect Luigi Vanvitelli along the lines of the French royal palace at Versailles.

The Stadio San Paolo - now the Stadio Diego Armando
Maradona - is the third largest football ground in Italy
Travel tip:

The Stadio San Paolo - now renamed the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona - is Italy’s third largest football ground with a capacity of just over 60,000. Built in the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood on the north side of the city, it was completed in 1959, more than 10 years after work began and has since been renovated twice, including for the 1990 World Cup. The home of SSC Napoli, it was Maradona’s home stadium between 1984 and 1991. The suburb of Fuorigrotta, the most densely populated area of the city, lies beyond the Posillipo hill and has been joined to the main body of Naples by two traffic tunnels that pass through the hill since the early 20th century. The suburb is also the home of the vast Mostra d’Oltremare, one of the largest exhibition complexes in Italy, built in 1937 to host the Triennale d'Oltremare, the aim of which was to celebrate the colonial expansion envisaged by the Fascist dictator Mussolini.

Also on this day:

1466: The birth of military leader Giovanni Sforza

1966: The birth of footballer Gianfranco Zola

1974: The birth of motorcycling champion Roberto Locatelli

1982: The birth of footballer Alberto Gilardino

1982: Paolo Rossi’s hat-trick defeats Brazil at the 1982 World Cup


21 January 2022

Giuseppe Savoldi - footballer

The world’s first £1 million player

Savoldi scored 168 goals in  405 matches for Bologna
Savoldi scored 168 goals in 
405 matches for Bologna
Giuseppe Savoldi, whose transfer from Bologna to Napoli in 1975 made him the first footballer in the world to be bought for £1 million, was born on this day in 1947 in Gorlago, a municipality a short distance from the city of Bergamo in Lombardy.

A prolific striker, Savoldi’s big-money deal came four years ahead of the much heralded £1 million transfer of another striker, Trevor Francis, from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest, which made him the first player in Britain to move for a seven-figure sum.

Napoli, who saw Savoldi as the last component in what they hoped would be a title-winning team, paid 1.4 billion lire in cash, plus two players, Sergio Clerici and Romario Rampanti, to secure his signature. The two players were valued at 600 million lire in total, which valued Savoldi at 2 billion lire, the equivalent at the time of about £1.2 million.

But where Francis, who later spent five seasons playing in Serie A, won two European Cups with Nottingham Forest, scoring the winning goal in the final in 1979, Savoldi’s move did not yield anything like the same kind of success.

Napoli had finished third and then second in Serie A in the seasons before Savoldi’s arrival but were unable to maintain their momentum. Savoldi was top scorer in each of his four seasons in Campania but i Partenopei - named after the ancient Greek settlement that evolved into Neapolis - could finish no higher than fifth in his time there.

Giuseppe Savoldi (left) with his brother, Gianluigi, who played for Juventus
Giuseppe Savoldi (left) with his brother,
Gianluigi, who played for Juventus
Indeed, although he ended his career as the 13th highest scorer in the history of the Italian championship with 168 goals from 405 matches, his only winners’ medals came in the Coppa Italia, which he won twice with Bologna and once with Napoli, and the Anglo-Italian League Cup, which he won once with each club.

Savoldi was born into a sporting family. His mother, Gloria Guerini, was a top-level volleyball player, winning the first Italian women’s championship in the sport as a member of the Amatori Bergamo club, and his younger brother, Gianluigi, also played professional football.

Giuseppe himself was a talented all-round athlete, excelling at both the high jump and basketball, despite standing only 1.75m (5ft 9ins). His footballing ability was clear, however, and in 1965, at the age of 18, he joined his local Serie A club, Atalanta.

Initially used as a winger, Savoldi took a while to reveal his potential. In his first full season, despite being given the No 9 shirt and a licence to attack through the middle, he managed only five goals. Yet in his second season at centre-forward he was Atalanta’s top scorer with 13 Serie A goals and began to attract attention from other clubs.

At first he was not keen to leave his hometown club but his chances of winning trophies with Atalanta were remote and in 1968 he willingly signed for Bologna, where he would become one of the club’s most successful forwards, his tally of 140 goals in all competitions bettered by only three other players in the club’s history.

Savoldi (back row, third from left) made his first
appearance in the
His tally in Serie A for the rossoblu was 85 from 201 appearances, an outstanding achievement given that Italian football was heavily defensive in the 1970s. It would have been 86 but for an extraordinary incident in a fixture against Ascoli Piceno in the 1974-75, when Savoldi was denied a goal after a ballboy managed to kick the ball back into play after it had crossed the line, without the referee noticing.

Savoldi was capocannoniere - top scorer - for Bologna for six consecutive seasons, winning the Coppa Italia in 1970 and 1974 and the Anglo-Italian League Cup - a short-lived competition that pitched the Coppa Italia winners against the English League Cup winners over two legs - by beating Manchester City.  But Bologna could not finish higher than fifth in Serie A, which persuaded him that he needed to move again.

Napoli looked like a team that could fulfil Savoldi’s dream of becoming a Serie A winner. There was an outcry in some quarters over the price Napoli were willing to pay.  Many Neapolitans lived on the breadline at the time and angry trade unions complained that half of the two billion lire would have paid the city’s refuse collectors what they were owed in unpaid wages by the near-bankrupt city council. Seven goals in his first seven matches by Savoldi quelled some of the discontent, however, and had the city dreaming of a first Serie A title.

Savoldi frequently offers his opinion as a regular Serie A pundit
Savoldi frequently offers his opinion as
a regular Serie A pundit
Sadly for Savoldi, that distinction would not come until the following decade, when a certain Diego Maradona arrived to transform the club’s fortunes. Savoldi had to content himself with his third Coppa Italia and another Anglo-Italian League Cup.

He returned to Bologna in 1979 but a shadow was cast over the end of his career when he became embroiled in the infamous Totonero match-fixing scandal that saw a number of high-profile players, including the future World Cup hero Paolo Rossi, handed lengthy bans.

Savoldi, who earned seven senior caps with the Italian national team, was barred from playing for three and a half years. This was reduced to two years on appeal but effectively ended his career at the top level. He returned for one more season with Atalanta in Serie B before retiring in 1983.

For the next 15 years, he concentrated on coaching but achieved only modest success. Nowadays, he is involved in football largely as pundit, in which role he is often asked his opinion on the current fortunes of his former clubs. He lives in the Bergamo area.

Bergamo's walls have been standing for about four and a half centuries
Bergamo's walls have been standing for
about four and a half centuries
Travel tip:

Bergamo in Lombardy, where Giuseppe Savoldi lives, having been born in nearby Gorlago, is a fascinating, historic city with two distinct centres. The Città Alta, upper town, is a beautiful, walled city with buildings that date back to medieval times, with a good deal of Venetian influence. The walls, which extend to more than six kilometres (3.72 miles) around the Città Alta, with four gates, go back to the mid-16th century. Designed to protect the city from enemies, they remain largely intact. The elegant Città Bassa, lower town, still has some buildings that date back to the 15th century, but more imposing and elaborate architecture was added in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Piazza Maggiore in Bologna; the square is the heart of the well-preserved city centre
Piazza Maggiore in Bologna; the square is the
heart of the well-preserved city centre
Travel tip:

Bologna, where Savoldi made his name as a player, is one of Italy's oldest cities. It can be traced back to 1,000BC or possibly earlier, with a settlement that was developed into an urban area by the Etruscans, the Celts and the Romans.  The University of Bologna, the oldest in the world, was founded in 1088.  Bologna's city centre, which has undergone substantial restoration since the 1970s, is one of the largest and best preserved historical centres in Italy, characterised by 38km (24 miles) of walkways protected by porticoes.  At the heart of the city is the beautiful Piazza Maggiore, dominated by the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio, which at 132m long, 66m wide and with a facade that touches 51m at its tallest, is the 10th largest church in the world and the largest built in brick.

Also on this day:

1918: The birth of conductor and cellist Antonio Janigro

1926: The death of neuroscientist Camillo Golgi

1949: The birth of chef Gennaro Contaldo

2006: The death of 1938 World Cup winner Pietro Rava


24 May 2021

Aurelio De Laurentiis - entrepreneur

Film producer who owns SSC Napoli

Aurelio De Laurentiis followed his father and uncle into the movie industry
Aurelio De Laurentiis followed his father
and uncle into the movie industry
The film producer and football club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was born on this day in 1949 in Rome.

The nephew of Dino De Laurentiis, the producer credited with giving Italian cinema an international platform with his backing for Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning 1954 movie La Strada, Aurelio teamed up with his father, Luigi, to form the production company Filmauro in 1975.

The company has produced or distributed more than 400 films in Italy and around the world, working with directors such as Mario Monicelli, Ettore Scola, Pupi Avati, Damiano Damiani and Roberto Benigni among the big names of Italian cinema, as well as internationally-acclaimed names such as Blake Edwards, Peter Weir, Luc Besson, Eduardo Sanchez and Ridley Scott.

Aurelio has won numerous honours for his achievements in the film industry, including, in 2005, the Nastro d'Argento as Best Producer for What Will Become of Us - What Will Become of Us?- and all in that night (released in America as Adventures in Babysitting).  

Filmauro is also the company behind a sequence of Christmas comedies that have proved massively popular with Italian audiences since they were launched in the 1980s. 

Yet he is perhaps even better known for buying up a bankrupt SSC Napoli football club in 2004 and taking it from Serie C - the third tier of Italian football - to the Champions League in just five years.

The badge of the Serie A club
SSC Napoli, rescued by De Laurentiis
With roots in Torre Annunziata, the historic former Roman city on the Bay of Naples where his father and uncle were born, De Laurentiis always regarded Naples as his spiritual home, even though he was born in Rome.

When SSC Napoli went bust after 78 years of history, with debts of 70 million euros, it was De Laurentiis who stepped in with dreams of restoring the club to its glory years of the 1980s, when Diego Maradona was the fulcrum of a team that became Italian champions for the first time in 1987 and won a second title three years later, landing a first major European trophy via the UEFA Cup in between.

He had to start at a lowly level, launching a new club called Napoli Soccer after the Italian football federation banned the use of the historic SSC Napoli name and placing the new entity in Serie C1, the third tier in the Italian football pyramid.

But after hiring Edoardo Reja, a coach who had won promotion for Brescia, Vicenza and Cagliari, the new club gained promotion from Serie C at the second attempt and Serie B at the first, returning to Serie A at the start of the 2007-08 season.

Walter Mazzarri, the manager who won a Champions League place for Napoli
Walter Mazzarri, the manager who took
Napoli back into Europe
By then, De Laurentiis had bought the rights to use the SSC Napoli name and proved himself a shrewd judge of coaches by appointing Walter Mazzarri in October 2009 and signing the attacking trio of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamšík. 

Under Mazzari’s guidance, Napoli finished third in Serie A in 2011 to qualify for the Champions League and won the Coppa Italia for the first time since the Maradona era the following season.

The Spaniard Rafael Benitez, famous for winning the UEFA Cup with Valencia and the Champions League with Liverpool, followed Mazzari and brought De Laurentiis a second Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa Italia as well as two more seasons in the Champions League.

Benitez’s successor Maurizio Sarri steered them to runners-up spot in Serie A twice in four seasons between 2015 and 2018, each time behind Juventus, and third in the other, before giving way to three-times Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, under whom they were second again in 2019 and won a third Coppa Italia in 2020.

With Gennaro Gattuso in charge, Napoli missed out on a Champions League place in 2020-21 and will have to be content with a Europa League spot again in 2021-22 after finishing fifth in the season just ended, after which De Laurentiis announced that Gattuso is to leave the club.

In 2018, De Laurentiis expanded his football empire by acquiring another bankrupt former Serie A club in Bari, once Napoli’s rivals for superiority in southern Italy.

Should Bari, currently in Serie C, find their way back to Serie A after an exile of more than 10 years, De Laurentiis may face a problem as the Italian federation (FIGC) does not permit the ownership of more than once top-flight club, although the club president is actually Luigi De Laurentiis junior, Aurelio’s eldest son by his Swiss-born second wife, Jacqueline Baudit.

In September 2020, De Laurentiis revealed that he had tested positive for Covid-19, raising fears for his health given his age. Happily, the illness was short-lived and he has since made a full recovery.

Visitors to Torre Annunziata can see the remains of the Villa Oplontis, an ancient Roman complex
Visitors to Torre Annunziata can see the remains of
the Villa Oplontis, an ancient Roman complex
Travel tip:

Torre Annunziata, where De Laurentiis has family roots, is a city in the metropolitan area of Naples. Close to Mount Vesuvius, the original city was destroyed in the eruption of 79 AD and a new one built over the ruins. Its name derives from a watch tower - torre - built to warn people of imminent Saracen raids and a chapel consecrated to the Annunziata (Virgin Mary). It became a centre for pasta production - in which Dino De Laurentiis worked before entering the movie business - in the early 19th century. The Villa Poppaea, also known as Villa Oplontis, believed to be owned by Nero, was discovered about 10 metres below ground level just outside the town and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hotels in Torre Annunziata with

A view of Piazza Ferrarese, which overlooks the harbour in the older part of the city of Bari
A view of Piazza Ferrarese, which overlooks the
harbour in the older part of the city of Bari
Travel tip:

Bari is the second largest urban area after Naples in the south of the Italy. It has a busy port and some expansive industrial areas but plenty of history, too, especially in the old city - Bari Vecchia - which sits on a headland between two harbours.  Fanning out around two Romanesque churches, the Cattedrale di San Sebino and the Basilica of St Nicholas, the area is a maze of medieval streets with many historical buildings and plenty of bars and restaurants.  There is also a castle, the Castello Svevo.  The more modern part of the city is known as the Centro Murattiano, or the Murat quarter, in that it was built during the period in the early 19th century in which Joachim Murat, for a long time Napoleon's most trusted military strategist, ruled the Kingdom of Naples, of which Bari was a part.

Find a hotel in Bari with

Also on this day:

1494: The birth of painter Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo

1671: The birth of Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last of the dynasty to rule Florence

1751: The birth of Charles Emmanuel IV, King of Sardinia

1981: The birth of celebrity chef Simone Rugiati