Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughFrom Serie C1 to Serie A Contenders: The Incredible Rise of SSC Napoli (video) - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough From Serie C1 to Serie A Contenders: The Incredible Rise of SSC Napoli (video) - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

From Serie C1 to Serie A Contenders: The Incredible Rise of SSC Napoli (video)

As of Sunday night, SSC Napoli sit in second place in Serie A, just 3 points behind champions Juventus, 6 points ahead of Lazio and 9 points ahead of Milan giants Inter and AC. This is a remarkable achievement for the Azzuri of Naples, especially when you consider that just 9 years ago, the club were declared bankrupt and demoted to the third tier of Italian football.

Napoli have won the Serie A title on just two occasions. Inspired by their most famous adopted son Diego Maradona, I Partenopei lifted the Schudetto in 1987 and 1990 during a real golden era for the club. However, an unsuccessful period followed throughout the 90’s and at the beginning of the new millennium both on and off the pitch. As a result of uncontrollable debt and unpaid bills, the FIGC ordered the club’s demotion from Serie B to Serie C1 in 2004. Yet just 9 years decade later, Napoli appear to be genuine contenders for the top spot in Italian football once more in an incredible meteoric rise.

Much of Napoli’s recent ascent can be attributed to film producer and born-and-bred Neapolitan Aurelio De Laurentiis. De Laurentiis took charge of Napoli in 2006 and immediately paid off the club’s outstanding debts before embarking upon his master plan of returning his boyhood heroes to the glory days. Widely acknowledged as the saviour of his hometown club, Napoli’s official website credits De Laurentiis as the catalyst for the “Neapolitan Renaissance”.

De Laurentiis’ investment in the playing squad coupled with a defiant Neapolitan support – the locals often packed out the 51,000 capacity Stadio San Paolo despite their position in the lower echelons of Italian football – led to successive promotions to the top flight in 2007.

Napoli competed well in their first two seasons back in the Serie A, finishing in 8th and 11th position respectively. A slow start to the campaign in 2009 led to the dismissal of former Italian national team boss Roberto Donadoni and the subsequent appointment of present coach Walter Mazarri. This proved to be a real turning point in Napoli’s recent history.

Aurelio De Laurentiis had already invested wisely in the playing staff at the club with the purchases of Slovakian Marek Hamsik and Argentinean Ezequiel Lavezzi in the summer of 2007. However, undoubtedly Napoli’s greatest signing in recent years has been that of Edinson Cavani. Bought from fellow Serie A outfit Palermo for 17 million Euros, the Uruguayan has scored 96 goals across two and a half seasons for I Partenopei and earned a reputation as one of world football’s most sought-after strikers.

With the goals of Cavani and the guidance of Mazarri, Napoli began their assault on the top of the Serie A. In 2010, they finished in 6th place before qualifying for the Champions League the following season in 3rd position. Their now notorious counter-attacking style caught out the likes of Manchester City and Villarreal as they reached the knockout stages of the competition before their defeat to eventual champions Chelsea. Back home in Italy, they ended the season with a surprise Coppa Italia victory over Serie A winners Juventus, who previously had not lost a game on Italian soil throughout the season.

And it is Juventus again who Napoli face in the race for this year’s Serie A. Neapolitans still hark back to the successes of the Azzuri under their beloved Diego Maradona with great fondness. Yet given their club’s humble new beginnings less than a decade ago, a third Scudetto title this season would surely be Napoli’s greatest success of all.