Napoli have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in their history and it is the least this current Partenopei team deserve after another scintillating performance against Eintracht Frankfurt.
The southern Italian club won 3-0 in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Wednesday evening and 5-0 on aggregate. The Neapolitans had reached the Round of 16 in the 1990/91 European Cup and twice in the Champions League era, but the current side have shown that they are in a different class to their predecessors.
Napoli will join their northern rivals AC Milan and Inter in the quarter-finals, and they certainly did it with greater panache and conviction.
Osimhen shines brightly against Frankfurt
Star striker Victor Osimhen scored twice on the night while Matteo Politano had an involvement in both goals, supplying the cross for the first goal and then finding Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who provided a low cross for the Nigeria international to score the second.
Piotr Zielinski, who has been a stellar performer in midfield, earned a penalty and went straight down the middle to add the third. This season’s revelation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia had his moments, playing a part in the second goal and also coming close to scoring, but this game against the Germans was evidently about Osimhen and his scoring prowess.
Napoli represent what modern Italian football should be
While AC Milan and Inter were able to scrape through to the quarter-finals playing defensively in their respective Round of 16 ties, Napoli demonstrated what a potent attacking unit they are. Never getting complacent against their German opponents, the Partenopei would go forward at every opportunity possible.
The Milanese clubs are among the traditional powers of Italian football, and they reached the quarter-finals in the most stereotypically Italian manner possible against Tottenham and Porto respectively. If Juventus, who were demoted to the Europa League, were anything to go by, that approach to football is not sustainable in the long run.
Napoli have shown that you do not need to be ultra-defensive to defend well and that you can attack without leaving gaps at the back. Coach Luciano Spalletti has set his team up in a compact 4-3-3 formation, they rarely concede space to the opposition, and Amir Rrahmani and Kim Min-jae have formed a formidable defensive partnership.
It is not just on the field that Napoli are showing a more modern approach, but also off it. While the Milanese clubs have been known historically to have great buying power, those days are now long gone. With Suning struggling to bring in capital for Inter and RedBird not investing lavishly on AC Milan, they cannot throw money at their problems to find the solutions.
Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis spends within his means and he as well as sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli have provided a balanced squad for Spalletti to work with.
Events marred by fan trouble in Naples
There was a sour note in this tie with the Eintracht Frankfurt fans running through the historical centre of Naples, throwing flares and chairs all over the place.
Supporters of Die Adler were banned from attending the match at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, but a group of hooligans still decided to inflict a riotous mess around the southern Italian city, specifically in the Piazza del Gesu Nuovo.
Being eliminated from the Champions League was bad enough for the reigning Europa League winners so this is another blight on this campaign for Eintracht Frankfurt.