History of S.S.C. Napoli
The first club was founded as Naples Foot-Ball & Cricket Club in 1904 by English sailor William Poths and his associate Hector M. Bayon. Neapolitans such as Conforti, Catterina and Amedeo Salsi were also involved, the latter of whom was the club’s first president. The original kit of the club was a sky blue and navy blue striped shirt, with black shorts. Naples’ first match was a 3–2 win against the English crew of the boat Arabik with goals from MacPherson, Scafoglio and Chaudoir. The name of the club was shortened to Naples Foot-Ball Club in 1906.
Early into its existence, the Italian Football Championship was limited to just Northern clubs, so Southern clubs competed against sailors or in cups such as Thomas Lipton’s Lipton Challenge Cup. In the cup competed between Naples and Palermo FBC, Naples won three finals. The foreign contingent at the club broke off in 1912 to form Internazionale Napoli, in time for both club’s debut in the Italian Championship of 1912–13. Though the sides had a keen rivalry in the Campania section, they were not as successful outside of it and a few years after World War I, they merged as Foot-Ball Club Internazionale-Naples, also known as FBC Internaples.
Associazione Calcio Napoli
Under the presidency of Giorgio Ascarelli, the club changed its name to Associazione Calcio Napoli on 23 August 1926. After a poor start, with a sole point in an entire championship, Napoli was readmitted to Serie A’s forerunner, the Divizione Nazionale, by the Italian Football Federation (“FIGC”), and began to improve thanks in part to Paraguayan-born Attila Sallustro, who was the first fully fledged hero to the fans. He was a capable goal-scorer and eventually set the all-time goal-scoring record for Napoli, which was later bested by players like Diego Maradona and Marek Hamšík.
Napoli entered the Serie A era under the management of William Garbutt. During Garbutt’s six-year stint, the club would be dramatically transformed, frequently finishing in the top half of the table. This included two third-place finishes during the 1932–33 and 1933–34 seasons, with added notables such as Antonio Vojak, Arnaldo Sentimenti and Carlo Buscaglia. However, in the years leading up to World War II, Napoli went into decline, only surviving relegation in 1939–40 by goal average.
Napoli lost a closely contested relegation battle at the end of 1942 and were relegated to Serie B. They moved from the Stadio Giorgio Ascarelli to the Stadio Arturo Collana and remained in Serie B until after the war. When play continued, Napoli earned the right to compete in Serie A, but were relegated after two seasons for a bribery scandal. The club bounced back to ensure top flight football at the start of the 1950s. Napoli moved to their new home ground Stadio San Paolo in 1959. Despite erratic league form with highs and lows during this period, including a further relegation and promotion, Napoli had some cup success when they beat SPAL to lift the Coppa Italia in 1962, with goals from Gianni Corelli and Pierluigi Ronzon. Their fourth relegation cut celebrations short the following season.
Napoli on the rise: Maradona era
As the club changed their name to Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli on 25 June 1964 they began to rise up again, gaining promotion in 1964–65. Under the management of former player Bruno Pesaola, they won the Coppa delle Alpi and were back amongst the elite in Serie A, with consistent top-five finishes. Napoli came very close to winning the league in 1967–68, finishing just behind Milan in second place. Some of the most popular players from this period were Dino Zoff, José Altafini, Omar Sívori and hometown midfielder Antonio Juliano. Juliano would eventually break the appearance records, which still stands today.
The trend of Napoli performing well in the league continued into the 1970s, with third place spots in 1970–71 and 1973–74. Under the coaching of former player Luís Vinício, this gained them entry into the early UEFA Cup competitions. In 1974–75, they reached the third round knocking out Porto 2–0 en route. During the same season, Napoli finished second in Serie A, just two points behind champions Juventus. Solid performances from locally born players such as Giuseppe Bruscolotti, Antonio Juliano and Salvatore Esposito were relied upon during this period, coupled with goals from Giuseppe Savoldi.
After defeating Southampton 4–1 on aggregate to lift the Anglo-Italian League Cup, Napoli were entered into the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup for 1976–77, where they reached the semi-finals, losing 2–1 on aggregate to Anderlecht. The club won their second Coppa Italia trophy in 1975–76, eliminating Milan and Fiorentina en route, before beating rivals Hellas Verona 4–0 in the final. In the Italian league, Napoli were still very much a consistent top six side for much of the late 1970s. Even into the earliest two seasons of the 1980s, the club were performing respectably with a third-place finish in 1980–81. However, by 1983, they had slipped dramatically and were involved in relegation battles.
Napoli broke the world transfer record fee after acquiring Diego Maradona in a €12 million deal from Barcelona on 30 June 1984. The squad was gradually re-built, with the likes of Ciro Ferrara, Salvatore Bagni and Fernando De Napoli filling the ranks. The rise up the tables was gradual, by 1985–86, they had a third-place finish under their belts, but better was yet to come. The 1986–87 season was the landmark in Napoli’s history; they won the double, securing the Serie A title by three points and then beating Atalanta 4–0 to lift the Coppa Italia.
Napoli supporters celebrating the team’s first scudetto in May 1987.
Because a mainland Southern Italian team had never won the league before, this turned Maradona into a cultural, social and borderline religious icon for Neapolitans, which stretched beyond the realms of just football.
The club were unsuccessful in the European Cup in the following season and finished runners-up in Serie A. However, Napoli were entered into the UEFA Cup for 1988–89 and won their first major European title. Juventus, Bayern Munich and PAOK were defeated en route to the final, where Napoli beat VfB Stuttgart 5–4 on aggregate, with two goals from Careca and one each from Maradona, Ferrara and Alemão.
Napoli added their second Serie A title in 1989–90, defeating Milan by two points in the title race. However, this was surrounded by less auspicious circumstances as Napoli were awarded two points for a game, when in Bergamo, an Atalanta fan threw a 100 lira coin at Alemão’s head. A controversial set of events set off at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, when Maradona made comments pertaining to North–South inequality in the country and the risorgimento, asking Neapolitans to root for Argentina in the semi-finals against Italy in Naples.
The Stadio San Paolo was the only stadium during the competition where the Argentine National Anthem was not jeered, Maradona bowed to the Napoli fans at the end and his country went on to reach the final. However, after the final, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) forced Maradona to take a doping test, which he failed testing positive for cocaine; both Maradona and Napoli staff later claimed it was a revenge plot for events at the World Cup. Maradona was banned for 15 months and would never play for the club again. The club still managed to win the Supercoppa Italiana that year, with a record 5–1 victory against Juventus, but it would be their last major trophy for 22 years. However, in the European Cup, they were eliminated in the second round.
Decline and rebirth
Though the club finished fourth during the 1991–92 season, Napoli gradually went into decline after that season, both financially and on the field. Players such as Gianfranco Zola, Daniel Fonseca, Ciro Ferrara and Careca had all departed by 1994. Nonetheless, Napoli managed to qualify for the 1994–95 UEFA Cup, reaching the third round and in 1996–97, Napoli appeared at the Coppa Italia final, but lost 3–1 to Vicenza. Napoli’s league form had dropped lower, and relegation to Serie B came at the end of 1997–98 when they won only three matches all season.
The club returned to Serie A after gaining promotion in the 1999–2000 season, though after a closely contested relegation battle, they were relegated immediately back down the following season. They failed to gain promotion following this and slipped further down. The failed 2001–02 Serie B campaign was costly, the cost of production was €70,895,838, just about €10 million fewer than in 2000–01 Serie A, heavily due to the high amortisation of the player asset (€33,437,075). However, value of production was just €21,183736 (excluding player profit) and the net loss was €28,856,093 that season. Net asset on 30 June 2002 was €2,166,997, already including about €20 million recapitalisation. The club once quoted the law “21 February 2003 No.27” to lower the amortisation expense by extending the amortisation period beyond the contract length of players to 10-year (UEFA ruled the Italian special law was not lawful and all club should use IFRS standards, thus causing a re-capitalization crisis in 2006), which some players contract (with a total residual accounting value of €46,601,225) was amortise in special way for €4,660,123 only and the rest for €1,659,088 in 2002–03, however the cost of production was still exceed the value of production for €19,071,218 in 2002–03. By August 2004, Napoli was declared bankrupt with debts estimated up to €70 million. To secure football in the city, film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis refounded the club under the name Napoli Soccer, as they were not allowed to use their old name. FIGC placed Napoli in Serie C1, where they missed out on promotion after losing 2–1 in play-offs to local rivals Avellino in 2004–05 Serie C1.
Despite the fact Napoli were playing in such a low division, they retained higher average attendances than most of the Serie A clubs, breaking the Serie C attendance record with 51,000 at one match. The following season, they secured promotion to Serie B and De Laurentiis bought back the club’s history, restoring its name to Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli in May 2006. After just one season back in Serie B, they were promoted on the final day, along with fellow “sleeping giants” Genoa. Napoli finished the season in eighth position in Serie A, enough to secure a place in the UEFA Intertoto Cup third round.
The 2008–09 season saw Napoli qualify for the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto Cup. However, the team was eliminated in the first round by Benfica. At the domestic level, Napoli made a very impressive start, proposing as one of the main candidates for a Champions League spot. However, results and performances quickly declined in mid-season, causing Napoli to fall down to 11th place in the league table, which led to the dismissal of manager Edoardo Reja in March 2009; former Italy national team manager Roberto Donadoni appointed as his replacement.
Despite reinforcements in the summer transfer window, Napoli began the 2009–10 season with a number of poor results. After a 2–1 loss to Roma in October 2009, Donadoni was relieved of his duties and replaced by former Sampdoria manager Walter Mazzarri. Under Mazzarri, Napoli climbed up the table, finishing in sixth place to qualify for a 2010–11 UEFA Europa League spot. Napoli, under Mazzarri’s guide and reinforced by players such as Edinson Cavani, spent part of the 2010–11 season in second place, finishing third and qualifying directly to the group stage of the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League.
In the 2011–12 season, Napoli ended in fifth place in Serie A, but managed to defeat unbeaten champions Juventus in the Stadio Olimpico to win the Coppa Italia for the fourth time in club history, 25 years after their last cup win. Star striker Edinson Cavani scored from a penalty kick in the 63rd minute and Marek Hamšík decided the match in the 83rd minute. Napoli also had a successful season in the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League, its first participation in the European Cup since the 1990–91 season. The team finished second in its group behind Bayern Munich, and ahead of Manchester City, progressing to the round of 16, where they were eliminated by eventual winners Chelsea.
In 2012–13, Napoli finished in second place in Serie A, the club’s best performance since winning the 1989–90 Scudetto. Edinson Cavani finished as top scorer in the division with 29 goals, which resulted in him being sold to Paris Saint-Germain for a club record fee of £57 million.
In the 2013 close-season, Walter Mazzarri left Napoli to become coach of Internazionale, and was replaced by Spaniard Rafael Benítez, who became the club’s first foreign coach since Zdeněk Zeman in 2000. The money from selling Cavani went towards signing three Real Madrid players – Gonzalo Higuaín, Raúl Albiol and José Callejón – and other players, including Dries Mertens and Pepe Reina. They finished the season by winning the 2014 Coppa Italia Final, their fifth title in the tournament, with a 3–1 win against Fiorentina with two goals from Lorenzo Insigne and another from Mertens, as well as qualifying for the Champions League by finishing third in Serie A. According to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, Napoli was rated the third-best club in the world in 2015, despite failing to qualify for the 2014–15 UEFA Champions League group stage.
On 1 December 2015, in the 2015–16 season, a 2–1 home win over then-league leaders Inter sent Napoli to the top of Serie A for the first time in 25 years.
On 10 January 2016, an away 5–1 victory against Frosinone made Napoli the champion of the first half of 2015–16 Serie A season for the first time since 1989–90, thanks to Sassuolo’s 1–0 win against Inter at the San Siro.