South will rise again as Napoli get excited

It doesn’t take much to get Neapolitans excited, but even those exuberant types can be justifiably thrilled with Napoli’s current 14-game unbeaten run in the league.

Such is the buzz around the city that 50,000 tickets had already been sold by Tuesday for Saturday evening’s home game against Genoa.

Just for the record, Napoli are fourth in the table and a win will take them into joint-second place – even if it only until late Sunday afternoon.

Still, they haven’t been in such an elevated position since the days of Diego Maradona back in the late 80s.

It's been a long and torturous transformation from fallen giants to reborn hopefuls but they certainly deserve more than a brief moment in the sun.

Where once the Partenopei were considered a rag-tag group, now under the wily ways of Walter Mazzarri they've forced the rest of Serie A to change their opinion.

Of course, Aurelio de Laurentiis and his almost manic belief that he could turn the club from bankrupts to profit-makers - even if it meant taking time off producing slap-stick comedies for a popcorn-eating, multiplex-going domestic audience – has been just one factor.

After jettisoning Edy Reja when he hadn’t actually done anything wrong, De Laurentiis was man enough to accept that he made a major mistake in hiring Roberto Donadoni.

At least now with Mazzarri he has made the right decision and has been equally quick to be garlanded with praise for that move.

Donadoni: "It's just not working..."

Under Donadoni, Napoli played like a bunch of individuals who had just been thrown together on a blind date and were trying a little too hard to impress.

Now the former Sampdoria coach has put the team before the individual, which was perfectly highlighted last weekend during a potential banana-skin at Livorno.Minus their two star turns - Ezequiel Lavezzi and Fabio Quagliarella – the victory was built-around solid teamwork and a goal from Christian Maggio that many compared to Marco van Basten’s stunning volley in the Euro 88 final s– albeit from a more central position.

Mazzarri has certainly brought the best out of those who had felt the weight of expectation when they first arrived in the shadow of Vesuvius – such as Luca Cigarini, who scored the second, and the aforementioned Maggio.

His secret has been to instil in a disparate group of Italians, South Americans and central Europeans a sense of team spirit but at the same time the belief that you can still express yourself.

Walter Mazzarri: "All together now..."

No longer do the Italians run around like over-worked waiters on a Saturday evening whilst the South Americans demand the ball on a plate – now everyone can enjoy the feast.

On top of that, it is the coach’s word that is final: previously the players were faced with a list of fines for stepping out of line and that included speaking out of turn.

Now, they can voice their opinions as long as it is directed to the Mister and stays within the confines of the dressing room.

It is a southern uprising that's also finding converts down in Palermo and Bari - and it is one that will hopefully rebalance the north-south divide in Italian football. More to read...

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