On November 14, Napoli announced the departure of coach Rudi Garcia. The Spaniard had arrived at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona this summer, and following a title-winning 2022/23 season under Luciano Spalletti, the expectations were high. However, Garcia leaves Napoli with a record of eight wins, four draws and four defeats. The Azzurri are sitting fourth in the league – 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan – as Serie A has paused for the November international break.
In his place, Napoli have brought in Walter Mazzarri who already worked with the Azzurri between 2009 and 2013. His second spell at the club is meant to be much shorter as his contract will expire at the end of the season.
Napoli have won just one of their previous four games, so Rudi Garcia’s departure did not come as a surprise. After the international break, they are set to face Atalanta, Inter Milan and Juventus in back to back league matches, so this was the perfect opportunity to shuffle things around at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Moreover, Mazzarri will need to ensure Napoli qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, with the team scheduled to play Real Madrid and Braga in the closing rounds of the group stage.
Second Stint at Napoli for Walter Mazzarri
As mentioned above, Walter Mazzarri already knows Napoli as he coached them for four years. The Italian, still relatively fresh into his managerial career back then, took charge of the Azzurri mid-season in 2009/10. He led the team to a sixth-place finish that term, which prompted president Aurelio De Laurentiis to offer him a longer contract.
Napoli remains to this day the best period of Mazzarri’s career. For one, his Napoli finished third in 2010/11 and qualified for UEFA Champions League for the first time in over 20 years. In a similar feat, Napoli won their first trophy in two decades when they beat giants Juventus in the 2011/12 Coppa Italia final.
The 2012/13 season became the last one for Walter Mazzarri at Napoli. The Azzurri ended the season trophyless but achieved a second-place finish in Serie A. Similarly, their best placement in Italy’s top division in over 20 years.
Mazzarri would then go on to manage Inter Milan, Watford, Torino and, most recently, Cagliari. However, he never reached the same level of success as with Napoli. Prior to his return, Mazzarri had been a free agent since being sacked by Cagliari in May 2022.
Life After Mazzarri
Another important thing to keep in mind about Mazzarri’s appointment is that his contract runs out at the end of the 2023/24 term. Unless the 62-year-old outperforms the expectations, it is likely that the Azzurri will have a new coach next summer.
So far, there has been more than one name circulating in the media, although it is still too early to understand how strong those links are.
The number one candidate appears to be Antonio Conte who is currently on a sabbatical and plans to return to coaching next summer. This time frame fits perfectly with Mazzarri’s seven-month contract, which has fuelled the speculation that Conte will be De Laurentiis’ bet. No doubt, there are not many Italian coaches that can compete with Conte when it comes to experience and achievements. However, his defensive approach is in stark contrast with what Luciano Spalletti built last term and what Rudi Garcia tried to continue this season. This raises the question whether Conte is truly the best fit for the Azzurri.
Another potential candidate – and with a more suitable playing style – is Vincenzo Italiano. Napoli reportedly contacted Italiano over the summer but the manager decided to continue his project at Fiorentina. The club may come back with another call towards the end of the season, though.
Other names include Francesco Farioli (Nice’s coach who made a name from himself in Turkey), Thiago Motta (Bologna’s coach whose high-intensity pressing goes against the traditional Italian way of playing) and Igor Tudor (Marseille’s former coach who was in touch with Napoli prior to Mazzarri’s arrival but reportedly refused to sign a short-term contract).
Of course, things are certain to change in coming months, but what is clear is that De Laurentiis is considering both well-established coaches like Conte and younger coaches like Italiano, Farioli and others who have the potential to become the next Spalletti for Napoli.