Despite guiding Napoli to their first Serie A title in 33 years, Luciano Spalletti will leave the club at the end of the season. The coach indirectly confirmed his departure in an emotional press conference after beating Inter Milan (3-1). Among the successor candidates is probably Julian Nagelsmann.
“The matter is settled, you don’t change your mind every day,” Spalletti told reporters. “It’s a situation that’s been brewing for a long time. If you’re not convinced that you can give these people everything they deserve, you have to think about it. You think about it, come to a conclusion and then stick with it. It didn’t just fall out of the sky.”
The reason for his shock departure is a rift with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who is already looking for a new coach. Several familiar faces are in the running for the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona successor.
SPOX presents the most important candidates to succeed Spalletti as coach of the newly crowned Italian champions…
Loud Corriere dello Sport De Laurentiis is working intensively on a commitment from ex-Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 35-year-old is on the market after his surprising dismissal from FC Bayern at the end of March. Nagelsmann enjoys great respect from the Napoli boss, but one factor speaks against a commitment from the German in southern Italy: money.
De Laurentiis is said to be unwilling to pay him more than €6m net per season. In addition, Nagelsmann is still under contract with Bayern and the Reds are hoping for a decent fee.
It has been a long time since Thiago Motto, as coach of Paris Saint-Germain U19s, caused skepticism with his 2-7-2 formation without a goalkeeper.
It’s probably only a matter of time before the former Italy international gets one of the coveted coaching jobs in European football, maybe even at the Parc des Princes – or at another stadium where he once played, the San Siro…
However, at the moment he is being linked with Napoli for having done an excellent job in his first season with Bologna in Serie A. Succession to the late Sinisa Mihajlovic was an enormously difficult task, but Motta has turned Rossoblu into one of Serie A’s best footballing teams.
For De Laurentiis, however, he would not only be an attractive option because of his playing style, but also because of the comparatively lower salary. Still, it feels like this opportunity does not come at quite the right time for the 40-year-old who has yet to prove he’s as good a coach as he is a player.
Gian Piero Gasperini
Gian Piero Gasperini, the mastermind behind Atalanta’s remarkable journey from provincial club to Champions League contender, has been at Bergamo for seven years now. He is now 65 years old and could well end his coaching career in Bergamo.
De Laurentiis has a high regard for Gasperini, as does pretty much everyone in Italian football, and was already interested in signing him ten years ago. But then-manager Walter Mazzarri decided to extend his stay at Napoli for another season.
So is it likely that Gasperini will leave his beloved Atalanta for Napoli? No. But it’s understandable that De Laurentiis is interested in a manager known for playing fantastic football with a mix of perceived failed players and young talent.
Roberto De Zerbi is logically seen as the ideal successor to Spalletti. The two have a similar play style. De Zerbi has already proven with Sassuolo in Serie A and now Brighton in the Premier League that he is capable of achieving incredible results on a relatively small budget. In addition, De Zerbi was under contract with Napoli for four years during his playing days.
Although De Zerbi seems destined to return to the Maradona Stadium as a coach one day, we might have to wait a while longer for that. Born in Brescia, he seems to be enjoying his work in England and has just guided Brighton to the Europa League. While some of his top players could leave Amex Stadium in the transfer window, he is likely to stay.
And if he does eventually decide to leave the club, he could well end up getting one of the top jobs in the Premier League. Because De Zerbi is currently being highly praised by city coach Pep Guardiola.
Vincenzo Italiano joined Fiorentina two years ago. He was considered the next great Italian coach after performing miracles in Spezia. He achieved historic promotion to Serie A in his first season and stayed up in his second season. And all with good football.
After qualifying for Europe with seventh place in the 2021/22 season, the Viola will take a place in the middle of the table this time. However, they have been or are in two cup finals this season: they lost the Coppa Italia 2-1 to Inter Milan – but the Conference League final against West Ham United is still on June 7th.
He pretty much ticks all the boxes for De Laurentiis except maybe one: star power. But a coup in Prague in two weeks would certainly change that.
Italiano still has a contract in Florence until 2024 but as he himself said earlier this week: “I hope to celebrate in Rome and Prague and then we’ll see what happens…”
After Simone Inzaghi led Inter out of the crisis in sensational fashion, Antonio Conte’s return to the San Siro seems unlikely – unless the current manager decides to leave amid unfair criticism.
But Conte could also end up at Juventus, where Massimiliano Allegri will probably have to vacate the place. But the uncertainty about the point deduction and participation in the Champions League make the situation complicated.
Conte is also a candidate in Naples. De Laurentiis, himself a film director, has great respect for him and likes strong personalities. His international standing could not only ensure that the stars stay – but also attract new ones.
However, questions have been raised as to whether Conte is stylistically the right man for the task. As with Nagelsmann, it’s all about the money. After all, Conte had a gigantic contract at Tottenham and would have to significantly reduce his wage demands in order to eventually become the new Napoli manager.
Is Rafa Benítez set to return to Napoli? It’s entirely possible. De Laurentiis has high regard for the Spaniard, who won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa in his last tenure.
Benítez has recently pointed out that not only is he looking for ‘new challenges’ after leaving Everton in 2022, but he has also played his part in the development of some former Napoli superstars.
“In 2013, after the sale of (Edinson) Cavani to PSG, the president wanted to rebuild the team,” he explained The Coaches’ Voice. “It was a big challenge. We brought in (Gonzalo) Higuaín, (Raúl) Albiol, (Dries) Mertens, (Jose) Callejón, (Pepe) Reina, (Duvan) Zapata and then in January Jorginho and (Faouzi) Ghoulam. Later we (Kalidou) got Koulibaly from Genk for seven million euros, who was later sold for a lot of money. But the whole team had developed a lot at the time and had increased in market value.”
And it’s the kind of development that fits perfectly with Napoli’s new, sustainable approach. While Benítez’s appointment is unlikely to excite fans, it’s a viable option.
In recent days, Luis Enrique has emerged as a serious candidate to succeed Spalletti.
First of all, the Spaniard is looking for a new job after parting ways with Spain after the 2022 World Cup. He has since turned down the Chelsea job as well.
The treble winner with FC Barcelona has also previously worked in Serie A, with Roma, and has strong ties to Italy. He has often spoken openly about wanting to return there one day. What also speaks in his favor is that he prefers to play in a 4-3-3.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport De Laurentiis and Luis Enrique haven’t spoken to each other yet. If the financial conditions were right, “Lucho” would be a top candidate. However, since this week PSG has also put out feelers for him.