It was a fascinating title race; easily the most gripping in Europe’s major leagues and whilst it did not go right to the wire, for large spells it appeared Napoli would end Juventus’ hegemony in Italy and lift their first title in 28 years.
Ultimately, the Neapolitans fell just short and the Old Lady lifted their seventh consecutive title as part of their fourth double in six seasons.
Such crushing realisation appears to have been the final straw for highly regarded Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, who now looks set to exit the club with multiple reports stating Carlo Ancelotti has signed a two-year deal in southern Italy.
After this weekend’s conclusion of the Serie A campaign, Sarri told La Gazzetta dello Sport:
Everything in life ends and it is better to finish things after writing a beautiful story. I don’t know if I will stay, I have to talk about it with my family.
The situation is complicated. You can’t say you’re ready to go and try again with this squad when you don’t know that everyone will remain here.
What I do think is that I could not go directly to another Italian team, and that if I had to make a change I would prefer to go abroad.
One end of the spectrum to the other
Sarri became renowned for his tactical awareness, innovative approach and forward-thinking gameplan.
Not averse to controversy – accused of homophobia by then-Inter boss Roberto Mancini in 2015 – he has become a larger-than-life figure in Italian football, frequently smoking within matches and possessing a laissez-faire attitude to aspects of his conduct.
REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
He had been tipped with a move to Chelsea this summer, but reports now suggest Russian giants Zenit Saint Petersburg – whom Mancini has just departed to assume the Italy role – are his probable destination.
Sarri will be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, who is viewed as being on the opposite end of the coaching spectrum, adapting a laid-back approach.
Adapting to change
Formerly of Parma, Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, Ancelotti most recently was at Bayern Munich, where he replaced Pep Guardiola.
Despite winning the Bundesliga in his debut campaign, a slow start to the next season saw him dismissed back in October and he has been out of work since.
Bayern players struggled to adapt from the intense methods of Guardiola to the placid Ancelotti, and there might be fears the same problems will arrive in Naples.
However, the Italian is a hugely successful coach – winning the league title in Italy, England, Germany and France while also coming close in Spain. He also has won multiple Champions League titles across his spells with Milan and Madrid.
Another Italian title?
Ancelotti excels in being a father-figure to his players, offering a calming influence from the sidelines and, as was the case in Italy and Spain, being hugely popular with players and fans alike.
Things turned sour at Bayern, but that will not necessarily replicate itself again.
For Napoli, they realise any Serie A title next season will take another monumental effort while a sustained challenge in Europe may be even tougher.
Expectations may be downplayed, but if they can maintain their star players and make astute signings, Ancelotti may savour more success yet.