By Paolo Menicucci
Like the murder in the Gabriel García Márquez novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the declaration of bankruptcy by SSC Napoli did not take many by surprise.
Fall from grace
Only a week ago, the two-time Italian champions were kicked out of Serie B for the coming season after failing to provide guarantees regarding their financial security. It remains to be seen whether a new team will rise from the ashes, similar to ACF Fiorentina in recent years.
A new group of entrepreneurs might request the implementation of a law known as 'Lodo Petrucci' which allows a club made bankrupt to reform, meaning Napoli could play in Serie C1 this term. It would be a sad ending anyway for a dominating force in Italy and even Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Napoli won the Scudetto in 1986/1987 and 1989/1990 as well as the 1988/89 UEFA Cup, when they could count on the services not only of Argentinian wizard Diego Maradona but also of great players like Careca, Bruno Giordano and Salvatore Bagni. Their supporters were also arguably the most passionate in Italy.
Ironically, Napoli have gone under at a time when Maradona is struggling with serious health problems in Argentina. However, the southern club have had financial troubles for several years since the glory days when Maradona wore the No10 shirt.
They spent five of the last six campaigns in Serie B, winning promotion in 1999/00 only to fall the next season by a single point under the tutelage of first Zdenek Zeman then Emiliano Mondonico. Recently, the situation at the Stadio San Paolo was even more difficult following a bitter row between president Salvatore Naldi and former owner Giorgio Corbelli. Neither could decide who actually owned the majority of the club's shares and therefore who had the responsibility of finding the cash needed to save the side.
According to the court in Naples that sealed the club's fate: "Napoli have debts of about €62-64m, while the small income the club will have in the next few days will be enough just to pay the telephone bills." Last month 40,000 Napoli fans, hoping to avoid relegation, turned out for a special fund-raising game for the team at the San Paolo. Unfortunately it was not enough.
I am very upset personally and it was not a good day for Italian football," said Italian Football Federation president Franco Carraro. "Wherever Napoli have to start from, those 40,000 fans would have been upset. Football, however, teaches you that you can cry today, smile tomorrow and laugh the day after that. I hope Napoli find managers who can give life to this team so they can reach the level they deserve."
The example to follow is Fiorentina, who will return to Serie A this autumn two years after bankruptcy. The Viola were lucky to find a president like Diego Della Valle, who invested money and passion to bring Fiorentina back where they belong. At least six million fans around the world wish the same could happen to Napoli.
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