S.S.C. Napoli, often known as Napoli Football Club or simply Napoli, is an Italian football club from Naples. The team currently plays in Serie A, the top division in Italian football league system and boasts the fourth biggest fan base in Italy.
Napoli enjoyed their peak as a football club in the mid-late 1980′s when, having been on the fringes of the Serie A summit for some time, the club finally won the league title in the 1986-87 season.
Galvanized by the signing of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona and the introduction of players such as Ciro Ferrara, Salvatore Bagni and Fernando De Napoli, the Naples club captured two Scudetto (Serie A) titles, the Coppa Italia and a European trophy in the form of the UEFA Cup in the late 1980′s.
The magnitude of this achievement turned many of the Napoli players, in particular the mercurial Maradona, into cultural icons. Indeed, the outspoken Argentinean would continue to amaze, baffle and excite his fans for the duration of his career in Naples.
The 1987-88 season saw Napoli relinquish their title, finishing as runners up. However, the following season the club captured their first major European trophy, when they defeated Stuttgart to lift the UEFA Cup.
In the 1989-90 season the club won back their Serie A title, finishing two points clear of A.C. Milan in the title race. Maradona had been instrumental in all of these trophy wins and is often attributed as being perhaps the major reason behind the clubs drive for success.
However in the early 1990′s, after failing a drugs test, the midfielder was banned for 15 months and never represented the club again, departing for Sevilla in 1991.
Following Maradona’s departure Napoli Football Club experienced something of a decline in fortunes, they lost several high profile stars, including Gianfranco Zola, entered financial difficulties and were eventually relegated to Serie B at the end of the 1997-98 season.
By August 2004 he famous club was declared bankrupt and had run up debts of more than €70 million. The club was subsequently reformed and rebuilt and placed into Serie C1. Napoli quickly rose through the divisions and were soon back in Serie A where they have since remained.
Today the club is an established force in Serie A and in the past three seasons have finished sixth, third and fifth respectively. The club boasts a young, hungry squad with the quality required to mount a title assault, however, much depends on the approach of newly appointed manager Rafael Benitez. Having enhanced his CV at Chelsea with an Uefa cup win and a guaranteed champions league spot, the Spaniard comes into his new job with confidence.
If Rafa can build on the clubs European finishes and a strong Champions League display in the 2011-12 season then the club could be equipped to challenge for the Scudetto in a few years. This does, however depend on the transfer budget that Benitez is afforded, as well as his ability to fend off interest in star striker Edinson Cavani and talismanic midfield maestro Marek Hamšík.
If Benitez is given time to put his own stamp on the team and can get the best out of the squad he has inherited then there is every chance that S.S.C. Napoli can challenge for the league title.
However, if Benitez is dismissed early on or the club are forced to part company with their top talent then it is likely that the club could see a similar decline to the one they experienced in the 90′s.