Napoli were next to helpless, when it came to denying the inevitable departure Gonzalo Higuain from the club. Before going hurtling out to Turin, the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea were jostling for his signature that ended up as an effort in vain. Partenopei chairman Aurelio de Laurentiis did all he could to keep him at the club by insisting meeting his 94 million euro buyout clause was the only way teams could get a hold of him, but the frantic attempts failed.
The Argentine, who had racked up more goals than the games he had played last season- 36 in 35 appearances, had been a major reason as to why Napoli finished second the Serie A last season. His departure was an attempt to get as much as the club could from the sale of a star, without whom they couldn't have done as well as they have. What Napoli now have is money and money is what they will have to invest and make efficient use of, if they desire to take the scudetto crown from Juventus' head. If not that, then securing Champions League football by finishing inside the top three is the top priority.
A top three finish is minimum expectation
If not for Juventus' domination and their five consecutive scudetto triumphs, Napoli and Roma would likely have picked up scudetto crowns to add to former glories. Although, shattering the hegemony hasn't been possible but hanging in there and making best use of the money in their vault would be their best bet next season. The second placed finish does suggest that the side is good enough to linger around the first place and the side will obviously improve if the holes are pegged.
A top three finish should be the minimum target but restricting themselves to it won't serve justice to a side as good as theirs. They have to aim for the title, although Juventus are the favourites to claim it but the examples of Leicester City, Portugal, Hertha Berlin, and Iceland have shown that it isn't always about who has the better side, but about who plays the game in a more intelligent way.
Having money in vault doesn't neccessarily mean that Napoli will finish high in the Serie A, but spending that money wisely can mean that they achieve their objectives.
Bringing in too many players ends up damaging the balance in the side, which is more stable and well-knit if a single big name player is acquired instead of many and Napoli just have to do that. They have the money and the status to attract at least one star player, say someone like Mauro Icardi and with Kalidou Koulibaly possibly on his way too, more money is likely to flow in. Even Manolo Gabbiadini has been linked with a Premier League move and with Ajax's Polish star Arek Milik now roped in, the Stoke City linked Italian could be shipped out.
Sarri's men have also drawn strong links with Bologna youngster Amadou Diawara, who had an impressive season with La Dotta. What's hanging up the deal is the sale of Mirko Valdifiori, who would have to go the other way, if Napoli are to acquire the services of a solid defensive midfielder.
Napoli are lucky to have a slightly easy set of fixtures to grapple with, when compared to the likes of Juventus, Inter, Roma and Fiorentina. A home clash against AC Milan does await them on 27th August, but the other five games involve Pescara, Palermo, Bologna, Genoa and Chievo. They would have to churn as many points as possible from these five games and it is very much possible too.
The Derby del Sole awaits them on 16 October, with Roma playing the likes of Inter and Torino right before the massive clash, which will take place at Stadio San Paolo. Napoli will head into the game with a home advantage and also less exhaustion as they face less stiffer opponents in Genoa and Chievo before the derby.
Quite contrary to the start of the season, the end to the season is a rather tough one for the Partenopei, who take on Inter, Cagliari, Fiorentina, Torino, Sassuolo and Sampdoria in what looks like a stiff campaign-ender. Out of these six fixtures, Napoli play only two at home, which will make the task more tough.
Room for improvements?
The 4-3-3 formation worked efficiently well for Sarri last season, using pace and precision from wide to help Higuain rack up 36 goals. The pair of Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik drive the side forward with pace and themselves pile up 10 and 11 assists respectively last season. Not just in terms of assists, but the duo had 18 goals between them, bringing to the fore their productivity and how crucial they will be next season. Koulibaly and Raul Albiol had a solid season as well and Lorenzo Tonelli has already been signed up to replace Koulibaly, should he depart the club but don't be surprised to see the very able Tonelli partnering alongside him.
Emanuele Giaccherini has been acquired from Sunderland after his showings under Antonio Conte for the Italian side during the Euros. The former Sunderland man scored once and assisted once during the tournament, as the Azzurri bowed out in the quarter-final following a thrilling penalty-shootout. Currently 31, Giaccherini may not be as effective as Hamsik, Insigne or Callejon, but the dimunitive winger can be a decent second choice and depth is what Napoli would need this season, considering they've gained direct qualification to the Champions League. Not having enough depth in the side can disintegrate a team's season in a blink of en eye and Torino's Nikola Maksimovic is also on the radar to make sure this isn't a factor.
Depth has to be brought in, keeping in mind that the player to player quality in the side has to ensured. Icardi is someone for whom Inter are demanding around €70M and he is a player who is evidently built in the Higuain mould or is almost like a younger version of him, barring the fact that even he's an Argentine. Offers have been rejected but the Partenopei are persisting in their pursuit to sign him, clearly showing that they're more than just intent on signing him. The fee could well come close to how much Juventus shelled out for Higuain and this approach is something Napoli are really clever in adhering to.
This being the peak or near abouts of Insigne's career, the winger is edging close to what was expected out of him four or five years ago. The Italian was among the standout performers last season and is set to be a vital cog in the wheel next season too, being at the prime.
New signing Arkadiusz Milik enjoyed an impressive season under new Inter boss Frank de Boer at Ajax last season and his completely moulded nature of play is something that probably made Sarri fall for him. The 22-year-old impressed for Poland in the Euros and although, coming close to last season's 21 goal tally won't be easy but doing so and stepping up his game could make it possible.
Allan and Jorginho, who too were instrumental in transiting the play from defence to attack last season, will be more than just important. The Brazilian origin pair make a perfect pairing in a midfield two as Jorginho is someone who is more of a sitting midfielder, while Allan has the tendency to move forward more often. The two will play a crucial role next season.
Maurizio Sarri - The man for them
The 57-year-old may be a tad attracted to controversy ranging from smoking a cigarette (or packets) on the sidelines or making homophobic comments, but the on-pitch performances of the side have certainly come a long way since Rafa Benitez's exit. The fifth placed finish under Benitez clearly showed that the side underperformed, but Sarri has made sure that the side performs as per the expectations and level of the players. The Italian has brought back the forgotten hope and dreams that the club was yearning for and judging by the way the team is doing on the pitch, things will go right.
Where can they possibly finish?
Massimiliano Allegri has acquired players from his side's closest rivals to bolster Juventus and that is something that hands the likes of Roma and Napoli, who have offloaded Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain to the Old Lady, a clear disadvantage. Higuain adds more goals to their side, but the departure of Pogba takes away a player who covered more ground than anyone else on the pitch. The acquisition of Miralem Pjanic will do a lot to fill in that gap too but as good as he is, he isn't Pogba.
A top three finish is very much possible for Napoli, with competition from Roma and Inter. Apart from spending their money wisely, adding team depth to the side would also be a massive key to success.