May 5 – They reportedly cut their wage bill by 15%, were not predicted even to make the top four yet have now won their first Scudetto for 33 years with an insurmountable 16-point lead and five games still to play.
The southern Italian city of Naples exploded into a long night of celebrations on Thursday after Napoli secured the Serie A title for the first time since the days of Diego Maradona, sweeping away years of disappointment in a sensational season.
“These fans have seen big coaches come and go. They saw Diego Armando Maradona play and perhaps his (impact) is also felt in this success,” veteran Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said after a 1-1 draw at Udinese that made sure of what had been a certainty for several weeks.
Unlike the Maradona era, this wasn’t about a one-man show but a group of unsung heroes and a total team effort, spearheaded by leading scorer Victor Osimhen.
“I’m happy for all Napoli fans worldwide,” Osimhen said. “No one deserves the scudetto more than Neapolitans – more than us.”
Besides the 11,000 Napoli fans inside the stadium over 500 miles away in northern Italy, and 5,000 more outside the ground,, a capacity crowd of more than 50,000 watched the match on jumbo screens at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples.
“Napoli, this is for you,” a jubilant, emotional Spalletti said. ”There are people here who will be able to get through difficult moments in their lives because they remember this moment. These people deserve all the joy.”
In Udine, celebrating fans invaded the field at the final whistle, while in Naples there were fireworks and delirium.
Napoli’s success meant the last four Serie A titles have been won by four different clubs, but it was the first time a club south of Italy’s traditional soccer capitals of Milan and Turin had taken the league since Roma claimed it in 2001.
“You always told me, ‘We want to win,’ and now we’ve won. We’ve won all together,” Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis told the crowd at the Naples stadium before he embraced Naples Mayor Gaetano Manfredi.
De Laurentiis took over the club in 2004 when Napoli was declared bankrupt, restarting in the third division. “This is the coronation of a dream that’s been going on for 33 years,” De Laurentiis added. “It’s been a long process.” Napoli last won the Serie A in 1990.
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