Napoli celebrate Serie A title triumph on day of goodbyes

Napoli's title triumph was the crowning glory of Spalletti's long and eventful coaching career which has brought plenty of plaudits but few trophies.

Published: 05th June 2023 01:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th June 2023 01:26 AM   |  A+A-

Napoli's players celebrate after winning the Serie A soccer title trophy at the Diego Maradona Stadium, in Naples, Sunday, June 4, 2023. (Photo | AP)


NAPLES: Napoli fans watched their heroes finally lift the Serie A trophy on Sunday as coach Luciano Spalletti walked away from Naples after fulfilling the dream of generations of fans.

A 2-0 win over relegated Sampdoria was little more than an hors-d'oeuvre before the real reason fans jammed into the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona -- to see their team lift the trophy for the first time in 33 long years.

Victor Osimhen opened the scoring from the penalty spot midway through the second half, the 26th league strike of a stunning season that made him Serie A's all-time top African scorer.

Giovanni Simeone then made sure the hosts would finish the season on 90 points in the 85th minute with a stunning long-range strike before celebrating by holding up a Napoli shirt worn by icon and compatriot Maradona.

"This season has been brilliant for me, for my teammates, and for Napoli. We deserved this," Osimhen told DAZN before discussing whether he might leave in a big-money summer move.

"I don't know, the president has to decide that. I love the people of Napoli, they have shown me so much love. For me, I don't mind, the president decides and I will just go with the flow."

Spalletti will be on gardening leave for a year while still under contract with Napoli, and he will return to his Tuscan vineyard the oldest-ever coach to win the Scudetto at 64.

Napoli's title triumph was the crowning glory of Spalletti's long and eventful coaching career which has brought plenty of plaudits but few trophies.

"I need to be true to myself, leaving was a decision I made, that I came to. Even when I'm at home it'll be like I was in the stands watching and cheering for them," said Spalletti.

Fans will be hoping that whoever takes Spalletti's place will be able to utilise the hugely talented squad assembled by outgoing sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli, as some like Osimhen are targets for richer clubs north of the Alps.

"I would tell them to trust these boys because they have a human and playing quality that means you can allow them to keep the ball rolling," said Spalletti.

Quagliarella tears

Fabio Quagliarella was honoured by his fellow Napoli supporters in his final match in Italy's top-flight on an emotional day for the Samp captain.

Napoli fans considered him an enemy when he left for hated rivals Juventus after just one season in 2010, unaware until years later that a bizarre stalking plot had forced his departure.

The 40-year-old, who has scored 182 Serie A goals, openly blubbed after being given a plaque by supporters who also unfurled a banner in the stands which said, "you will never be forgotten by your people."

He was then given a rousing round of applause and hugs from opposition players when he was substituted in the final moments of a procession for Napoli.

Quagliarella may continue his playing career next season as under new ownership and with bankruptcy no longer looming Samp try to return to the top flight.

Later Zlatan Ibrahimovic will say farewell to AC Milan supporters after their final game against Verona, who are fighting for their top-flight lives.

The 41-year-old was a key figure in Milan's resurgence to the top of Italian football after his return to the club as a free agent in late 2019, helping to bring them back from the doldrums and eventually win the Scudetto last season.

But he has only started one match and netted once for Milan in an injury-plagued season, a 3-1 win at Udinese in March in which he became the oldest goal scorer in Serie A history.

Verona sit just inside the drop zone, level on 31 points with Spezia who are at Roma, and if the pair finish the season with the same tally they will contest a play-off to see who goes down to Serie B.


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