Why might Luciano Spalletti leave Napoli and who could replace him?

There is increasing concern that Luciano Spalletti is going to walk away from Napoli, just weeks after winning the Serie A title. Here is the background on the situation and who could take his place.

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Napoli have enjoyed an incredible season in Serie A in 2022/23, achieving something that almost nobody gave them a chance of doing when the season began. They were crowned Serie A champions recently for the first time in 33 years, sparking mass celebrations anywhere in the world that you can find a Napoli fan.

Whilst the party was long and fierce, it could well have a bit of asterisk put next to it in the coming days. Disagreements between head coach Luciano Spalletti and president Aurelio De Laurentiis have led to serious speculation that Spalletti will be leaving the club at the end of the season.

It would be a blemish on an incredible campaign for Napoli to have ended up losing the coach that delivered their third-ever Scudetto, seemingly when the situation seemed very avoidable.

Jose Mourinho and Luciano Spalletti greet each other. (@ASRomaEN)

Why might Spalletti leave Napoli?

Luciano Spalletti’s contract with the Partneopei runs until the end of next season so whilst it is in the interest of everyone to get a new deal agreed, he would need to be sacked or resign for him to not be the coach next season.

There seems to be a feeling that Spalletti thinks he has done all that he can with this Napoli team after just two years in the job. Either way, the communication between Spalletti and De Laurentiis clearly needs to be improved if they do continue working together.

In the press conference before the Inter match on Matchday 36, Spalletti said when asked about his future: “The club will say it, not me. We discussed it at dinner. I am not the one who has to say it. We worked everything out in that dinner we had a week ago, I clarified everything that evening. If you want to keep guessing, cold, warm or hot, you can, but it’s all been defined.”

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis. [@sscnapoli]

That led to a response from De Laurentiis where he said: “I don’t know what he meant by that, you’d have to ask him. It is not linked to what we said to each other at dinner. As far as I am concerned, I don’t need a pair of wings, but a pair of boots. I don’t need wings to fly anywhere.”

Spalletti was very fast to also point out that he has not rejected a salary increase from Napoli as this quote (translated by Patrick Kendrick) shows: “I haven’t turned down a pay rise. I don’t have to pay a [release] clause. It’s not true that I’ve had offers to coach elsewhere. Wrong. It’s not true that I’m waiting for or looking for another team to coach. Wrong. Whoever’s reporting that is reporting falsehoods.”

Napoli could lose Spalletti and Giuntoli

Losing Luciano Spalletti would be far from ideal for Napoli and their project, but it would be a catastrophe if they lost sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli as well, the man responsible for signing Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-jae during the summer.

Reports suggest that he is very close to being poached by Juventus, even though they could be set for a finalised 12-point penalty. With the news that Spalletti may be on the way out too, Corriere dello Sport (via Football Italia) reports that De Laurentiis will do what he can to stop the move.

Giuntoli is under contract until 2024 as well and De Laurentiis could decide to only let him leave the club if it is for a team outside of Italy, rather than one that will potentially be challenging for the Scudetto with Napoli next season.

Napoli’s Mathias Olivera and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, both signed by Cristiano Giuntoli, exchange passes against Inter. [@en_sscnapoli]

Who could replace Spalletti at Napoli?

The only potential benefit to Napoli of Spalletti leaving right now is that there are lots of coaches on the market. Rafael Benitez has already been heavily linked, whilst La Gazzetta dello Sport think that Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini is a credible option with his time at La Dea seeming to fizzle out.

Antonio Conte is an available coach right now but may be very expensive, whilst Julian Nagelsmann is yet to be snapped up by the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea.

Gazzetta have also, within the same report, linked Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Italiano with the job. It remains to be seen whether he will choose to stay at La Viola or not, given they are in two cup finals and may feel they can do better in Serie A next season.

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