Napoli have had an amazing rebirth under film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis which has seen them go from bankrupt to Serie A champions during an incredible 18-year rise in Italian football. Maradona led Napoli to their only two previous Serie A league titles with their last coming 33 years ago – but that all changed on Thursday night under boss Luciano Spalletti.
The distant glory days with Maradona in the team seemed a long way off when a history of free-spending habits while chasing their former glory days came back to haunt the Naples side. In August 2004 the second division side were declared bankrupt by a Naples court after having debts in the region of £46.1million.
Napoli’s future was far from certain and their license to play in Serie B was refused relegating them to the third tier of Italian football. The club could have fallen into very different hands as four companies were set up in the hope of buying the name of the Naples side.
De Laurentiis described his purchase to CBS Sports Golazo while celebrating their league title. He said: “I was in Los Angeles doing a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie when I went for 15 days to Capri (near Napoli) to make some vacation days.
“I discovered Napoli soccer was in bankruptcy, there was an auction so I put €37million on the table and I bought just the name. So I started my adventure and they (opposition supporters) were spitting on my head in every village we were going (in the third division).
“We were the Napoli of Maradona and they were little villages, it was fantastic, it was an experience and more interesting than making any movie.” De Laurentiis reignited belief in the team which carried the name Napoli Soccer and a league record crowd of over 50,000 spectators watched them clinch promotion back into Serie B at the second attempt.
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After being promoted back to Serie B the owner and president restored the name SSC Napoli and earned back-to-back promotions finishing second behind Juventus in their maiden season. Napoli went on to win the Coppa Italia three times as they became a competitive force in Serie A.
However, amid a overhaul of players and falling away in last year’s title race the Napoli owner faced a revolt last summer. The sale of popular players, including Kalidou Koulibaly, resulting in fans turning their backs and only a few thousand season tickets sold. However, a new band of players under Spalletti has dominated Serie A this season clinching the title with five matches remaining.
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