We finish our journey in Italy and the region of Campania. Naples is a football Mecca, closely associated with Maradona, tourism and a shady underworld culture. In the boardroom of Napoli though, envious eyes are being cast towards a sporting director whose burgeoning reputation shows no signs of slowing down. This isn’t an obvious one for many, but it should be.
Cristiano Giuntoli is not a household name to football fans, but his exploits have ensured Liverpool and others are keeping close tabs on his impressive career. A less than spectacular start as a player from the Italian lower leagues the 50 year old’s exploits at Capri are legendary, where he guided them to four promotions over five seasons and into Serie A. For all the enigmatic dealings and comments of Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis over the years, his shrewdest move has been to bring the 50 year old to the Diego Armando Maradona stadium, allow him a semblance of control and the relationship has borne fruit ever since.
Working, even surviving under De Laurentiis, can be seen as an achievement in itself, but it’s the Florence natives’ success in the transfer market that will potentially have brought him onto Liverpool’s radar. Napoli have lost big players in recent years such as Jorginho, Kalidou Koulibaly, Fabian Ruiz and Lorenzo Insigne; there was a suspicion as to whether they could maintain their top-tier status. The success of signings such as Victor Osimhen, Kim Min-Jae and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have quickly dispelled those myths and see Napoli currently 8 points clear in Serie A.
The nature of Giuntoli’s methods mark him as a real standout candidate in our line-up. Selling household names for top dollar, replacing them with unheralded talents and the team continuing to improve is the magic trick every club wished they could repeat. Especially a club owned by FSG and their operating methods. After an opening day Champions League annihilation and a history as one of our bogey teams, it would be an astonishment to those within the industry if he hasn’t been mooted as a possible Ward successor. The last but by no means the least of the candidates, there’s a lot to like.