Saturday, 19 July 2008

[Intertoto] Resurrected Napoli ripe for action

Having gone from Serie C1 to Serie A in the space of two seasons, Napoli are looking to return to top-level European competition after a 14-year absence via the UEFA Intertoto Cup.

Napoli signingsTwo summers ago, Napoli were celebrating their promotion from Serie C1 to Serie B, and there has been little let-up in the excitement since.

They quickly shot up to Serie A and finished eighth last season to earn a place in the third and final round of the last edition of the Intertoto Cup, where they get going in the first leg at Greek outfit Panionios on Sunday.

Napoli have not played in Europe since losing 2-0 on aggregate to Eintracht Frankfurt in the third round of the 1994-95 UEFA Cup, and are eager to return to the competition they won in 1989 as one of the eleven Intertoto winners.

"We had to start training very early," said coach Edoardo Reja. "We need to find the right form and the right tempo straight away."

Italian champions in 1987 and 1990, Napoli were declared bankrupt in 2004 and sent down to the third tier before the arrival of new President Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The film producer and Reja oversaw successive promotions with the help of general manager and transfer guru Pierpaolo Marino, who oversaw great signings last summer such as Walter Gargano, Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marcelo Zalayeta.

Other promising players such as Fabiano Santacroce and Daniele Mannini joined in January to further lift the Azzurri, and the strengthening has continued this summer with the arrivals of Leandro Rinaudo in defence, midfielder Christian Maggio and Argentinian striker German Denis.

"In Argentina everyone loves Napoli. I look forward to playing my first game at the Stadio San Paolo," Denis said.

The new arrivals will do well to eclipse Slovakian sensation Hamsík, who is proving almost as popular as Diego Maradona was in Naples, but the handful of players who started the journey with Napoli in the third tier will not be forgotten.

"It's a dream come true," said midfielder Mariano Bogliacino. "I joined the team in Serie C and now I'm playing to reach the UEFA Cup. It's incredible!".

Source: UEFA

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