Can Napoli threaten Juventus in Serie A this season?

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Juventus are in their usual spot of 1st place in Serie A as they go after an incredible 8th Scudetto in a row, no other team has won Serie A since Milan did so in 2011 and it has been a decade of utter dominance by the Old Lady.

Any team hoping that the good times were going to fizzle out for Juve were greatly let down when they signed Cristiano Ronaldo for 100m euros last summer. Together with an already world class squad Ronaldo has helped them back to the top of the league and is currently the leading goal scorer in his debut season in Italy. Everything is like a dream for Juventus at this moment, and then there is Napoli…..

The team from Naples have not won the league since 1990 when a certain Diego Maradona helped them to the title with his greatness and goals. Those days are long gone, but Napoli of the last 10 years have been a very impressive team. Take for example that they have finished runner up to Juventus in the 2010s on 3 different occasions and have at times really tried to push the Turin club. The problem is that Napoli keep losing the title and are being seen as the pretenders each season.

This one looks like ending the same, but Napoli yet again in 2nd place have not given up hope. Currently they have 52 points and are 11 points behind. They have messed up in recent weeks as they drew against both AC Milan and Fiorentina, but is there a way back for the side?

One way could be that Juventus get tied up in the Champions League. They have only won the competition twice in their history in 1985 and 1996, and have been a runner up 2 times from the last 4 competitions. It is the one trophy they are looking for this season and let’s face it it is the reason they signed Ronaldo in the first place, a player that has just won 3 of what they want in a row. Now could be the time.

So from Napoli’s perspective if Juventus get caught up in the competition inevitably they will focus on it, and should start dropping points. Well that is the theory. Let’s remind ourselves that this Juventus team are still unbeaten and it would take Napoli to win every game remaining of this season to have a chance for the title, that’s winning 15 games in a row.

It isn’t going to happen this season, Napoli have dropped the ball so to speak on too many occasions. But next season could be a real possibility and would also mark 30 years since they last won it.

Violence, racism and shame- Serie A is light years away from the glory days

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There are people of a certain age who still fondly remember when the best players in the world played all over Italy’s Serie A and the league was filled with the greatest players showboating the greatest of skills in magnificent stadiums and where money to buy these players seemed like a pot that had no limits.

Serie A gave us the great AC Milan team who dominated football domestically and in Europe for a good 6 years. Up until Real Madrid won back to back Champions League in 2017 Milan had been the last team to so making that feat in 1990, for a record that had stood for 27 years. That great side that boasted the likes of Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and the incomparable Marco van Basten were simply breath-taking.

But other teams such as Napoli with Diego Maradona no less also made waves and teams would regularly reach European finals. It all seemed to go wrong in Serie A by the late 1990s heading into the early 2000s when the Spanish league took off with the emergence of the great teams Real Madrid and then Barcelona. Italy have still had their say, look at Inter Milan’s win in the Champions League in 2010 and Juventus have reached a few finals since. But Serie A seems to have been left back almost in a time that the footballing world have forgot.

Violence, hooliganism, stadiums falling apart, racism and deaths. Sadly a death occurred on Boxing Day when Serie A returned to playing one day after Christmas for the first time in almost 40 years. These situations used to happen in England but when one sees how things have changed in the Premier League then despite the commercialisation of it and the oft used words gravy train something very positive has come out of it all.

That isn’t to say that racism is not in England, Raheem Sterling and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang can verify that isn’t the case, but there has been a huge improvement. Sadly in 2018 Italian football seems rather like England was in the early 1980s, where violence seems to be brewing in each game. The edginess for some may feel more exciting than in the Premier League for example but that excitement is evaporated when lives are at risk all over a game of football.

Serie A is continually letting itself down and sponsors, well at least the main ones will not want to back the league. Italian football will hopefully rise once more but just now and for a good few years it feels as if it is stuck in some time warp. A sweeping change is needed and needed fast because it feels all rather embarrassing right now.

 

Diego Maradona was misunderstood in his criticism of Barcelona star Lionel Messi

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Two of the very best players of their generations clashing will always garner attention and Diego Maradona, the Argentine legend has spoken out about another Argentine legend and a lot seems to have been lost in communication.

Maradona has spoken out about Messi and has said he is not a leader. It was these words that have been completely taken out of context, and it doesn’t matter what else Maradona said in his most recent interview. Messi not being a leader has been good enough for the worlds press and fans to run with it. Now Messi’s fans have turned against Maradona- ‘what do you mean he isn’t a leader?’

What Maradona was trying to say is that Messi should not captain the Argentina national side, you’re leader doesn’t have to be the best player in the world- and he’s absolutely right.

At the World Cup last summer Messi only showed flashes of his brilliance and for the most part he walked around the pitch with his hands on his head, it was a forgettable tournament in all truth for him and Argentina. And then there was Maradona high up in the VIP seats who really did cut a frustrated figure. Admittedly he refused to criticise Messi at the World Cup, and so doing so three months later has probably come as a shock to some, but you get the feeling that it had to be said. Read between the lines and Maradona is calling Messi a superb player that has to have his leadership within the team stripped away to become a better player for the national side. In truth there is nothing wrong and everything right in what Maradona is saying.

Maradona said: ” Messi’s a great player, but he’s not a leader, before talking to the coach and players, he’ll play on the PlayStation. Then, on the pitch, he wants to be the leader. He’s the best along with Cristiano Ronaldo but for me, it’s pointless to make a leader out of a man who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a match. There’s no two ways around it. Let’s stop making a God out of Messi. Messi is just another player for Argentina. I wouldn’t call him up right now. We need to take pressure off him and the leadership away from him for him to be the Messi we want him to be. I would make him play as I want, how I know Messi can play.”

No coach for Argentina including ironically Maradona has found the right balance to accommodate Messi and it seems no coach will. Although Messi is set to star in Copa America next year a trophy like the World Cup that has eluded him, could 2019 be the year to end Messi’s draught with the national side, and will anyone take positive notice of what Maradona has said? Only time will tell.

 

Maradona apologises over England “robbery” rant

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Legendary Argentina striker Diego Maradona has apologised for claiming that England committed “monumental robbery” in their World Cup last-16 tie with Colombia on Tuesday evening. The former Napoli star was incensed that American referee Mark Geiger had apparently shown a bias towards England, punishing Colombia more often than the Three Lions. Speaking on a nightly World Cup show on Venezuela-based Telesur, Maradona had said: “Here’s a gentleman who decides, a referee who, if you Google him, shouldn’t be given a match of this magnitude… Geiger, an American, what a coincidence.”

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Top EPL Strikers in 2017/18 – Sergio Aguero (Man City)

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Being a striker is no easy job. If you do a good job, then you have just been doing your job. If you go through a bad patch, then you are lambasted and ridiculed for not being any good at what you are supposed to do. Fortunately for Sergio Aguero, rarely have any such accusations be directed in his direction because, quite frankly, he is incredibly good at what he does. Being one of the main strikers for a team who were expected to challenge for the Premier League title (and ultimately won it very comfortably) is never going to be a challenge to relish for most individuals – it is literally make or break time. Aguero, however, has taken it all in his stride and shown just how good he really is.

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Gonzalo Higuian and former club Napoli leave on bitter terms

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Only in football where you have just made a cool £75 million can there still be a war of words and bitterness. And so this trend has continued it seems with Gonzalo Higuian’s mega £75m move from Napoli to champions Juventus.

At Higuians first press conference he said that the move was mostly down to his failed relationship with outspoken Napoli owner Dino De Laurentis. Higuain said: “ My relationship with him was never good because his way of thinking was not like mine, my choice also came about because he pushed me to make it. Now I’m very happy here and I thank Juve for their great effort to get me.”

Earlier in the week De Laurentis had said that he felt “betrayed” and also felt that the Argentinian international had been ungrateful.

And it goes further than that with Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri also being dismayed with the striker. He said: “ I was expecting at least a phone call, even if it was just for five minutes before he had his medicals but I’m old enough not to be surprised. The lads also expected a farewell. As far as I know, there was nothing.”

From this it seems that Higuain and his agent wanted a fast clean break from the southern Italian team. This breakdown of communication is a sad reflection of the game. On one side Napoli could be seen as the team that saved Higuain’s career. The club bought him from Real Madrid when the Spanish giants saw him as surplus to requirements.

Whilst Madrid have made countless mistakes in the past with selling players, (see Arjen Robben, Samuel Eto’o and Claude Makelele), the feeling was that Higuain had seen his best years. Not so.

Higuain went to Serie A and never looked back, becoming  a much better rounded player in the process. In just three seasons he scored 71 goals in 104 league games. This includes 36 last season in a league where defence is still king.

He also won trophies at Napoli both in 2014 the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana. But the league title eluded him. Indeed it has for Napoli since the days of Diego Maradona going back to 1990.

At Juventus Higuain will believe that a club that has won the last 5 Serie A titles will continue to do so and that Higuain can start winning silverware as his goals have obviously suggested. One side note and going back to Maradona is that Higuian has given up by joining Juventus the chance to become Napoli’s all time goal scorer he needed just 25 more goals to do so and he would have got it.

Thing of it is- that stat will be the least on Higuian’s mind as he prepares for the coming season, which should be rather explosive. Turin expects.