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If you wonder why Napoli's Serie A title celebrations are different from the others we witness every year in Italy, you need to understand the essence of this city and these fans. Naples is a special place. It's a city that just embodies the common happiness of its citizens, their generosity and warmth, but at the same time is full of contradictions. It's a city that was built on the slopes of a volcano, Mount Vesuvius, that might erupt at any time, but if you look on the other side you see the beauty of the Mediterranean sea that just fills hearts with peace and comfort.

The Neapolitans feel different from any other Italian city. Their connection with the culture, the music and especially the soccer club is visceral. Naples was, and is still considered, the capital of the south, as it actually was the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1817 to 1861, until Italy was unified. That was a defining year of the recent history of the city, and from that moment on, the Neapolitans felt to be undermined by the North of the country and the rivalry between North and South grew exponentially. 

The same rivalry turned into soccer as well. Napoli were never considered a top team and never really challenged the top Italian clubs for the title. Italian soccer has been historically dominated by the top three giants: Juventus, Inter and AC Milan. Napoli, AS Roma, Lazio and few others occasionally challenged them but failed to create a winning legacy as the big three did. This is why Napoli always were considered as underdogs until the 1980's something unexpected changed the history of the club. 

The legacy of Maradona

Back in 1984, former Napoli's president Corrado Ferlaino signed Diego Armando Maradona, who's still considered a real hero in Naples. Maradona is an icon around Naples and it is visible daily, not just on matchdays. He's the one that made Napoli the best Italian team during his years there and won their first Serie A title, beating the big clubs and making Naples the center of Italian soccer. The Maradona deal worked out amazingly also because he was a '"Neapolitan Argentinian," as Ferlaino himself described him to CBS Sports in a recent interview. Maradona understood the fans and felt incredibly close to them but also with their passion and love for the city. 

Diego Maradona made the club believe anything was possible. Getty Images

Read the full interview of former Napoli's president Corrado Ferlaino with CBS Sports about Diego Armando Maradona. 

If you visit Naples, you can feel that the spirit of Diego is still around, especially after he passed away. When he came back to Naples for the first time after he left, for Ciro Ferrara's soccer match retirement in 2005, the city was buzzing to see him back where they saw him shining at his best. Ferrara's party became Maradona's comeback party, as the former Napoli defender said a few years later.

"It became the night of Maradona, and I couldn't be happier for my city," Ferrara said. 

After Maradona passed away in 2020, Napoli fans are even more connected to his legacy. They created an entire space in the city center dedicated to him, where fans, tourists and most of the soccer clubs pay a visit before every game. When the Napoli team starts the pre-match warmup at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona (of course), the fans listen to two songs dedicated to him. One, the most famous one, "Live is Life" by Opus, the one that Maradona listened to while he was warming up before the UEFA Cup in 1989 in Munich ahead of the clash against Bayern Munich. The second one is "La Mano de Dios" by Rodrigo, "The Hand of God," one of the most sincere and touching musical celebrations about a sports figure. 

The song, of course, refers to the goal scored by Maradona at the 1986 World Cup against England, and the importance of this soccer icon for the Napoli fans. Italian film director and Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino dedicated his last movie to Maradona. "The Hand of God" is a movie about Maradona, Naples and the life of Sorrentino, who said multiple times that  "Diego Armando Maradona saved my life"."

On Sunday, April 5, 1987, Napoli traveled to Empoli, where they drew 0-0. The 17-year-old Sorrentino was meant to spend the weekend with his parents in the mountains, but Paolo asked his dad to follow Maradona and the team for his first-ever away game, as Napoli were about to win their first Serie A title. Both his parents were killed that weekend, poisoned in their bed by carbon monoxide fumes from a faulty heater in the house. Sorrentino also gave tribute to the soccer legend after he received the Academy Award in 2014 for "The Great Beauty."

"Thank you to my sources of inspiration, Martin Scorsese, Federico Fellini, the Talking Heads and Diego Armando Maradona," he said. 

The De Laurentiis era 

After the Maradona era, Napoli had some difficult years and in 2004 went bankrupt. Italian cinema producer Aurelio De Laurentiis decided to acquire the Italian club and started to rebuild it from the third division. It took some time, but in 2007 Napoli managed to get back to Serie A. In few years, Napoli were able to sign players such as Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain and won three Coppa Italia and one Supercoppa Italiana in total until the 2022-23 Scudetto. 

During the De Laurentiis era, Napoli focused on the financial stability and regularly played Champions League soccer. During the past years, Napoli appointed coaches like Rafa Benitez, Carlo Ancelotti and Gennaro Gattuso. However, in the summer of 2015, De Laurentiis and sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli hired Maurizio Sarri from Empoli, a coach that, despite the long coaching experience, only had his first Serie A chance one year prior.

Sarri's tactical ideas worked incredibly well at the club and in 2018 Napoli were close to winning the Scudetto after winning a key game at Juventus, 1-0, thanks to the goal scored by Kalidou Koulibaly. They later lost 3-0 to Fiorentina and missed the chance to win the title despite recording 91 points. Even if Sarri could not win the Scudetto with Napoli, that team is still remembered as one of the most innovative sides of the recent decade around European soccer. It was probably, at the same time, the most disappointing moment for the fans since the club came back to the first division, but the wait is now finally over and they can celebrate the so much-awaited Scudetto five years later. 

Luciano Spalletti's impact 

The 2022-23 Napoli's Scudetto is definitely one of the biggest surprises of recent years. The last Italian team to win a title that was not either Juventus, AC Milan or Inter was AS Roma back in 2001, this is why this title is also special and Napoli fans hope that this might be the start of a winning cycle. The mastermind behind this success is Luciano Spalletti, who joined the club in the summer of 2021. This is a big achievement for him as well, as this is also his first ever Scudetto after getting close with AS Roma, but he's never won the big title in his home country. 

Spalletti has been always considered to be the "eternal number two," the one that always brought good results to the teams he worked with but never won the title. Well, until now. After a positive first season at the club, the summer of 2022 seemed to be complicated for him. Former club captain Lorenzo Insigne and club legends Dries Mertens and Koulibaly all left Napoli and the side immediately replaced them with other players that delivered incredibly well. Defender Kim Min-Jae and Georgian talent Khvicha Kvaratskhelia instantly became key players alongside Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen and Spalletti was able to create a special atmosphere inside the dressing room despite the loss of some incredible talents. 

Time to celebrate 

While the city can finally celebrate the long-awaited trophy around the streets, Napoli fans were preparing for weeks for this moment. For example, Osimhen's protective mask became a symbol and is one of the best-selling items around. Napoli fans wanted to arrive prepared this time, and the city was already fully decorated for weeks in anticipation.

Truthfully, it's not easy to describe Naples, the blue-collar city with so much to offer. But there is someone who did it perfectly. Neapolitan singer Pino Daniele (below in the video singing with Maradona after the 1990's title), one of the most influential characters of this city that sadly passed away in 2015, wrote an unofficial anthem of this city called "Napule è" which means "Naples is." It's one of the most touching and accurate musical descriptions of Naples, where Daniele described the city and the Neapolitans in this way.

"Naples is a thousand colors
Naples is a thousand fears
Naples is a bitter sun
Naples is the smell of the sea
Naples is a dirty card
and nobody cares"

Not today, not this year. Naples and Napoli are back, and we all care.