“Mentality – noun -a person’s or group’s way of thinking about things.”
This is a word we have heard countless times over the last 12 months. Our Owner Aurelio De Laurentiis, called out our lack of cazzimma. Coach Mauricio Sarri constantly posed the question last season before and after big matches. An experienced player like Jose Callejon, during an international break, mentioned the teams need for a stronger mentality last season. Fans have been wondering and thinking about it. Mentality. Will Napoli ever gain that winning mentality? Historically, the answer has been, at the end of the day, “No”.
Now I would like to pose the same question to all Napoli Tifosi, do we now have that thing we had been missing for so long?
Well, things really started to change on March 7th of this year, at the Stadio San Paolo….Dries Mertens slotted home a shot against Real Madrid in the 24th minute and sent the Stadio San Paolo into an absolute frenzy….In that first half at home against the reigning European champions, Napoli put on an absolute clinic; bossing around Real Madrid to the point that Cristiano Ronaldo had a temper tantrum at half time. Yes, Napoli ended up conceding to Sergio Ramos….and eventually bowing out of the Champions league to the team that would eventually win it, but that night changed this club for the better. We learned something very vital that night; that we belong, and are respected amongst the top clubs in the world.
-As of this article, this is the last match Napoli has lost. 167 days ago.
Less than a month after the clash with Real Madrid in the Champions League, Juventus, a most hated rival, was coming to Napoli for two matches in four days. It marked the return of Gonzalo Higuain to the San Paolo, the man who turned his back on the city. This, was turning point number two. In a set of matches featuring a 1-1 draw and a 3-2 win, Napoli would absolutely dominate Juventus. The Azzurri would out possess Juve 61% to 39% and 57% to 43% respectively in each match, and outshot the Bianconeri to the ridiculous tune of 17-4 and 16-5. This was the second part of our transformation.
After those matches, Napoli finished the season strong, ending up third in Serie A. Heading into this season, we all knew that we would be tested right out of the gates. Our biggest matches would come right as things were getting started. We would have to play in the Champions League playoff round. Only once in the last seven seasons had the Italian club involved advanced (AC Milan in 2013-14), and our last go at this stage of the tournament was not good. in 2014-15 we lost 2-4 on aggregate to Athletic Bilbao, and it had us start the season with a bitter taste. This year Napoli drew Nice, probably one of two teams many fans would’ve wanted to avoid.
In the first leg, we beat Nice 2-0 but the same, familiar questions lingered. We dominated them, demonstrated our style, but left many chances begging. We couldn’t wrestle the match completely out of their grasp. Was this the typical Napoli showing through? Would this come back to bite us, like it has in the past?
Well, yesterday Napoli showed us all something they rarely have in the past. Napoli stepped onto the pitch in Nice, and didn’t play their best game. It wasn’t total Sarrisimo. Players were slipping, passes weren’t as crisp, and it didn’t quite look like us at our best. After the first half, I am sure there were a lot of us out there who were thinking “We will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”. I dont blame you, either. These are the types of games Napoli would’ve lost in the past. It’s almost our calling card. Play your way, then somehow jumble it up. All that considered though, guess what? We won. We won 2-0. We showed that Neapolitan spirit of Cuore, Grinta, e Cazzimma
My superstition has me feeling some sort of way about posting this, but I pose the question again: Has our mentality changed? Have we turned the corner?
My answer is, well, it’s sort of a yes. A trending yes? I believe we are starting to see something happen here with this specific set of players. Something that, as the project evolves, feels special. Our players have been talking about this “pact” with leaving the current squad in tact for this season. Big name players showed up for camp early, cutting short family vacations. We have booked our first ever back-to-back Champions League group stages. Something is happening, I just hope it lasts until May.