Napoli’s loss is Napoli’s gain

Many hearts were broken when the new super-powers of European football flexed their financial muscle to kick-start their transfer assault on Serie A with the signing of Ezequiel Lavezzi, preceding AC Milan’s Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic through the arrivals section of the newly mega-rich Parc Des Princes, 30 million euros the price to land one third of the “Holy Trinity” and threaten to disrupt Walter Mazarri’s talented side that reached the second round of the Champions League and won the Coppa Italia.

Lavezzi, so destructive as the middle-man of the trio which included Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik, saw the promise of Champions League football, a luxury that avoided Napoli by the margin of a single point, as incentive enough to leave the exotic streets of Naples behind and join the exciting times with Carlo Ancelotti in the French capital. Even Milan could not withhold the financial strength that PSG now possess so little old Napoli, only freshly re-familiarised with European competition after their fabled past of Maradona and co. was betrayed by financial disruption at the turn of the millennium, had no option but to turn back to the drawing board for life without El Pocho.

There was no doubting Lavezzi’s importance to Napoli’s successful re-emergence as a reasonable force, his lightening quick presence in a three-pronged attack was integral to Mazzari’s devotion to the counter-attack, yet one argument that will facilitate his exit comes in the accusation that this often led to predictable, often laborious attacking movement in increasing over-reliance on the Argentine winger. To lose him however, was an undeniable blow for the Partenopei with the Sao Paulo now facing a void of 11 goals and 11 assists that he managed last year, or the 9 and 15 he managed the year before which help fired Mazzari’s men back to the top table of European football.

As with every aspect of the volatile world of football however, life must go on for Napoli and Mazzarri, who has set about replacing Lavezzi with the arrivals of Fiorentina’s midfield talent Valon Behrami and more prominently, the highly gifted 22 year old Chilean winger Eduardo Vargas from South America for a combined total of £18 million. This is without mentioning Lorenzo Insigne, a 21 year old striker whose record of 19 goals from 33 games at Foggia, partnered with his 18 goals from 37 games at Pescara in a succession of loan spells is suggestive of his hugely exciting talent.

Mazzari however, has refused to follow the same blasé set-up that he subscribed too in the “holy-trinity” era, the 3-4-2-1 tactic that often saw them susceptible to naivety when attempting to hit teams on the counter-attack. Behrami’s arrival has allowed Mazzari to bolster his midfield to a 3-5-2 with the highly combative Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano, with Blerim Dzemailli operating as cover, holding things firm in the engine room. Such conservatism has seen them overcome Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen in their first pre-season post Lavezzi and life without Pocho, with Cavani being partnered by Insigne, Vargas or the newly permanently tied-down Goran Pandev in a more solid attacking two, rather than the inter-changing disorganisation of a mobile inter-changing front three.

No one will benefit more from Lavezzi’s departure than Marek Hamsik, the creative force who was often found on the withdrawn periphery as a sacrifice for his attacking counterpart. Now given the opportunity to shine where he belongs, in the centre, expect Slovakia’s captain to discover his true potential as he relishes the additional responsibility of being the main conduit through which Napoli’s attack will flow, regardless of whether as a trequartista or in a deeper midfield role.

Lavezzi’s enduring parting shot to the Napoli fans will not be the superb Coppa Italia triumph over Serie A unbeatables Juventus, but his achievement to earn the club five times the transfer fee received than what was paid for him five years ago; if reinvested in reported transfer targets Ezequiel Schelotto and Federico Balzaretti, the Argentine can boast a further legacy in the future of Mazzari’s era as life without the 27 year old bag of energy seems to be very bright indeed.

As the centre of the media’s attention rests on the traditional powerhouses that reside in Italy’s north, the silent revolution underway in the shadow of Vesuvius continues below the radar, ready to spark the quiet surprise that has become a characteristic of Mazarri’s reign so far. It will be in a different fashion of course, as they become more tactically-savvy in the face of their loveable winger’s regretful exit, but evolution is part of football and if it ensures a further upward curve in the rebuilt majesty of Naples, there will be nobody more attributive to that success than PSG’s Lavezzi.