Napoli have taken a huge risk by bringing back Walter Mazzarri

ALVISE CAGNAZZO: Napoli have taken a huge risk by bringing back Walter Mazzarri who has failed at every club since leaving a decade ago… his appointment highlights how far they have fallen since winning Serie A under Luciano Spalletti

  • Napoli won the Serie A title less than six months ago under Luciano Spalletti
  • Re-appointing Walter Mazzarri shows how far they have fallen since then
  • Pochettino acted like he was denied entry to a nightclub – It’s All Kicking Off

Incredible but true. Walter Mazzarri has made a sensational return to the Napoli dugout a decade after leaving the club that has shown him the most love during his career.

He came close to winning the Scudetto in his first spell, but has not held a top manager’s job for the last 10 years.

Mazzarri is trusted as a man who thrives in adversity, but has been handed just a seven-month contract, knowing it is almost certain that his deal will not be extended at the end of the season. 

Before further analysis, it should be underlined that changing the manager will not be able to drastically overturn the results of Napoli’s season: the summer transfer errors and problems with declining player performance are not to be attributed solely to the Rudi Garcia, who was relieved of his duties on Tuesday.

Mazzarri is a huge risk for a Napoli side that needs a coach who knows how to command respect and turn the team’s fortunes around. 

Walter Mazzarri (pictured) has returned to Napoli 10 years after leaving the club

He replaces Rudi Garcia (pictured) who endured a difficult start to the season

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He has taken charge of over 400 matches in Italy’s top two divisions, but two Italian Cup finals in this period is not enough to convince that he will be able to lead Napoli up the table, and they could drop further still.

In his four years in Naples, Mazzarri won the Italian Cup in 2012 and achieved a second place finish the following season in Serie A. 

But their results in Europe were hardly eye-catching as they reached the round of 32 in the Europa League in 2011 and the last 16 in the Champions League in 2012.

His first spell at Napoli also began during the season when he replaced Roberto Donadoni in October 2009, and his work in southern Italy led to him being named Inter Milan manager in 2013.

Now he is back after Napoli decided to dismiss Garcia due to the breakdown in his relationship with the players.

According to Sky Sport Italia, Mazzarri had a proposal from a club in the Egyptian Championship, but ended up rejecting the lucrative contract to come back to the city that is close to his heart.

Mazzarri is a coach much loved and appreciated by president Aurelio De Laurentiis but moving from Luciano Spalletti to him in the space of five months is a dramatic drop-off for Napoli from a tactical and psychological perspective. 

Napoli have gone from being the best team in Italy with the best coach to a manager who has failed in all of the decisive moments of his career after positive experiences at Reggina and with a Napoli side containing Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Mazzarri’s appointment shows how far the club have fallen since winning with Scudetto with Luciano Spalletti

Can Mazzarri shine in Naples again?

‘We say goodbye to Mazzarri, let’s thank him for what he has done. Let’s move on and continue to grow.’

This was the tweet from De Laurentiis after the match against Roma on May 23, 2013 but now Mazzarri has returned and has just seven months to get the club back on track.

There are normal coaches who become extraordinary just by coaching some teams, living in some cities, and one of these is Mazzarri. 

Unlike Igor Tudor, who was another contender for the Napoli job who also shares a passion for the 3-5-2 formation, Mazzarri is a coach who has not managed a prestigious team for many years. 

President Aurelio De Laurentiis is hoping Mazzarri can find the magic touch once more

Mazzarri has struggled at every club he has been at since leaving Napoli, though

At 62, the Tuscan coach has won the lottery jackpot, having been handed a position that he does not deserve based on his results from the past decade.

After shining at Napoli, Mazzarri failed everywhere else as he fell short at Inter, Watford, Torino and Cagliari, damaging the legacy he built during the first part of his career.

De Laurentiis is relying on his rediscovering his magic touch, but has also factored in the club’s economic needs, given they will continue to pay Garcia until at least 30 June 2024. 

Mazzarri is happy to take a lowly salary and a short-term deal, and that pushed him to the front of the queue of candidates.

The 3-5-2 problem

Garcia struggled from the outset, and his sacking opens up the possibility of seeing a very different Napoli moving forward.

But Mazzarri prefers a 3-5-2 system, and this may not work for some of his key players such as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Matteo Politano and Giacomo Raspadori.

Mazzarri is a coach born and raised in a football world very different from the current one and seems, at least apparently, an unsuitable coach to revive the fortunes of Napoli.

Mazzarri’s preferred 3-5-2 system may not suit some players including Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

If Mazzarri does not adapt to the tactical system inherited from Spalletti and Garcia it will be very difficult to find harmony within the dressing room.

The choice to continue defending with a back four seems to be the most logical option even if it is not Mazzarri’s ideal method. 

The former Watford coach may need to show patience, but is known for his fiery character which could be an issue for Napoli if things start to go wrong quickly.

Football has moved on – can Mazzarri do the same?

Mazzarri will go back to walking along the seafront, eating at Ciro a Santa Brigida, the restaurant where 10 years ago he almost always sat alone smoking a cigarette to enjoy a victory. 

But football has moved on in the last 10 years and Mazzarri will be aware he is reaching the end of his professional career. 

Mazzarri did well in his first spell at Napoli but football has evolved since, and he has struggled to do the same

Watching the team in the Champions League once more could be a final indulgence for the experienced coach. 

Mazzarri inherits a team full of top players who won the title less than six months ago, but it has been downhill since then and they currently seem to have less potential than the side he had at his disposal back in 2013.

He has achieved the majority of his success playing a 3-5-2 formation that is light years away from the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 of Napoli in recent years. 

Whether he can adapt remains to be seen, but there are already seriously doubts that he will be able to steady the ship that has been sinking at some pace this season.


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