By Landon Gauthier
Edinson Cavani’s €64 million move to French champions PSG this July turned heads for multiple reasons.
It is the fifth largest transfer fee in football history, and that’s well beyond sensational summer signees Neymar (€57 million, FC Barcelona) and Falcao (€60 million, AS Monaco.) Cavani will provide an interesting tactical dilemma for manager Laurent Blanc who will need to find a way to play Cavani alongside reigning French golden boot winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Napoli are left with their own problem: replace a striker who scored 29 goals in all competitions last season, leading the side to a 2nd place finish in Serie A and winning the golden boot on the way. Thankfully, they have the man for the job.
The appointment of Rafa Benitez following Walter Mazzarri’s resignation and appointment at Internazionale provided a huge boost for the club. Benitez’ reputation as one of Europe’s elite managers admittedly took a dive after his sacking from Liverpool and subsequent 2010 dis-appointment at Inter. Doubters will indeed point to his poor performance as manager of a historically great Italian side in reference to his new job managing a historically decent Italian side. However, it appears that Rafa means business.
Looking to bolster the squad, Benitez first sold aging goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis. Since then he has completed a loan deal for fellow Spaniard Pepe Reina, bought defender Raúl Albiol, goalkeeper Rafel, winger Dries Mertens, forward José Callejón, and forward Gonzalo Higuaín.
Higuaín, who often played backseat to the plethora of strikers available at Real Madrid, is apparently keen on proving his worth. Speaking to ESPNFC.com, he stated his intent to win a title within his first year at the club.
“We want to challenge on three fronts. It’s a great club with a great coach who have built a great squad. Our aim is to win the Scudetto this season. That would be fantastic.”
Based on signings alone, Napoli have been the most exciting side in all of Europe this summer save perhaps for French spenders AS Monaco. However, unlike the Monacans, Napoli are flush with world-class returners.
Defender and captain Paolo Cannavaro will provide steady leadership from the back, making this his 8th season with the club. Midfielder Gökhan Inler will anchor a midfield that also deploys household name Marek Hamšík, a player who will be hungry to shine in the limelight left vacant by Cavani’s exit.
Should he and Higuaín combine for 30 or more goals with Callejón and Pandev chipping in here and there, Napoli could be the real deal, winning the league title for the first time since the Maradona-driven 1989-90 season, this time deploying a more-different-than-similar Argentinian striker in Higuaín.