Against Saviano’s sacrificial rhetoric on Naples
The week in which the Scudetto is awarded is a very opportune moment for flowery football news. One of the lynchpins of sports storytelling is the Distinguishing between winners and losers, and it remains so at a time when top athletes are trying to convince us that failure does not exist. Then when it comes to stories like that of Napoli this year, the game is even easier. Trajectories like those of Spalletti, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia, Zielinski and so on seem to come from a film where Naples was an exceptional setting. And yet, even in this context, Italian journalism manages to produce rhetoric so far removed from reality that it puts its hands in its hair (if they are still there).
The reference is to This article signed Roberto Saviano, published yesterday on Corriere della Sera. On the one hand, the emotional impact of these words is understandable: the sympathy with which Saviano writes would be felt by any fan in his place – he also seems to be aware of it. However, some of the arguments are cloying. The whole comment revolves around the idea that the third Scudetto is some kind of salvation for Napoli and the Neapolitans against them “most powerful corporate groups on the peninsula”and now “We will come back to everything we do” (his own words).
Naples win gives back – what? – in the south for the injustices suffered by the evil north over the centuries. Because the blues won against it “the three teams that dominate newspapers and ads, commentators and public spaces”.
In a moment of unfathomable clarity, Saviano seems to remember this about halfway through the piece “In the middle of a football field where zero is spoken, only who plays football counts, better”. We would like to be even more specific: In some respects, only who wins counts. And therefore The only “talks” are all these stories about Naples being punished by the media, small and poorhelpless before the light force the big. All of this is simply wrong without even addressing the merits of the (understood but still obvious) simplifications in the southern question.
Saviano actually forgets to specify this Napoli have been on the podium in seven of the previous ten Serie A seasons. In 2018, he broke his all-time scoring record in a single season. Napoli have been an elite team in the league for years, along with the notorious Inter, Juve and Milan. The whole argument is based on a certain economic superiority of these teams. It seems to be sixty years ago. The Transfermarkt database can help us look at the present through the numbers spent on player card purchases (minus turnover) in the last three seasons. And if Juventus and Milan’s balance sheets are indeed very negative (-108 and -105 million euros, respectively), Napoli still have a “worse” figure than Inter (+30 to +87 million). The mystery deepens when you find out that the most lavish club of the time was Parma, now in Serie B.
A suggestion: perhaps also with a view to what is happening around Stamford Bridge, maybe it’s not about how much money is spent. The work of sports management is much more complicated and they know it very well in Naples – this Scudetto also belongs to Giuntoli. And at this moment the article infuriates us: if he does not talk about the merits of Napoli, but makes reproaches, it is not clear what and to whom. Saviano is wrong, because this Scudetto isn’t worth more than the others: it’s worth just as much as the others, a lot. Any other starting point is an insult to merit, for example by Conte’s Inter, Italian champions despite the corporate chaos caused by the Chinese government’s reforms. Or last year’s Milan, who, thanks to a simply exceptional scouting job, built up by losing one free parameter after another.
Paradoxically, the speeches a la Saviano they do nothing but Take away merits from Naples: because they accept the superiority of the North, which they complain about.
A supremacy that doesn’t exist as the beating meanwhile goes on amidst all sorts of troubles between capital gains, super alloys and so on and so on. However, the dominance that does exist is that of Spalletti’s Napoli on the field. At this point, perhaps that was her main merit: knowing how to detach from any form of victimhood, and remembering that, fortunately, nothing can desecrate the sacredness of the game. Not even Saviano’s gossip.