The city had been completely decked out. There was illusion, hope of the return of a time that passed, 34 years ago, the date of the last League of Naples. That is why the city was expectant. It still is because a draw in the next six days or a game that Lazio does not win will make the Partenopean team champion, the Napoles by Luciano Spalletti.
This past Sunday, a victory against Salernitana at the Diego Armando Maradona, the former San Paolo, elevated the Neapolitans to glory. Celebrating the title at home, you know, it’s better, it gives more options to the fans who have followed you all year. You are more covered. Cholo Simeone always said that in 1996, when Atlético won the League, he preferred to win it at home. He even told his teammates, after the draw in Tenerife on the penultimate day, that on Sunday they would cheer on their rival for the championship at the time, Valencia. This ensured that the rojiblancos would not be champions on television, but rather the following Saturday in front of their fans, in a packed Vicente Calderón venue.
That is what is being said now in Italy. This Wednesday Lazio hosts Sassuolo at home and on Thursday Spalletti’s men visit the Friuli stadium to play against Udinese. A draw would give them the scudetto but voices have already been raised to celebrate the title at home against their passionate tiffossi, on Sunday against Fiorentina.
And that is what the 55,000 spectators who packed the stadium this Sunday expected. They longed for the title to be achieved now. An early alirón, the fastest in the last 20 years, if it had been achieved. A goal from Matías Olivera in the second half paved the way. The fans would think it was done because Napoli besieged the opposite goal but in a defensive oversight, Boulaye Dia, the former Villarreal player, scored a great goal for the tie. The illusion shatters. The title is not in danger but it has to be postponed for an uncomfortable three days.
Then Spalletti’s team had three very clear chances but their forces faltered. A save from Memo Ochoa, the Salernitana goalkeeper, a shot from Kvaratskhelia, frustrated the last attempt. The city was left empty. What was going to be a night of partying in hot Naples turned into a freezing environment. A tense wait rather than disappointment, but a wait that is always nervous in football.
Naples is not yet champion due to the rule that was introduced this past summer in Italian football. Ties will be settled in a tie-breaker, a system that was already in force in Italy in the 1980s and is again now. Spaletti’s team would not be champion yet in any way with old systems but it could be said that they would have it in hand because, although they tie the particular average, the leading team has 20 goals overall more than Lazio.
The Partenopean team will be able to raise their third scudetto on Thursday or, at the latest on Sunday. The one that they have not achieved since 1989, with Maradona as God not only of the Neapolitan fans but of all football, just the year they beat the Sttutgart the UEFA Cup, the best historical year for this team. A year before the World Cup in Italy, when all the problems began for the Argentine star. Before, in 1987, Diego had guided them to their first league title. It was then that a story of brotherhood between the player and the city began that makes Maradona the protagonist of several gigantic murals, the most significant in the Spanish Quartersin the historic center of Naples.
That is why these days will be remembered. Maradona will reappear in the heads of the most nostalgic. And now Spaletti will be the captain, the guide. And they will be the Osimhen, Lobotka, Zielinski, Lozano, Meret, Kvaratskhelia. And it will be a squad remembered because it has swept Italy. Perhaps without the icing on the cake that they also expected with the Champions League, but there will be time to try. Step by Step.
#Napoles #postpones #alirón