Ten years ago, Napoli was in ruins. The club was bankrupt, had to be re-formed after being purchased by Aurelio de Laurentiis, and was all the way down in Serie C1. Things looked bleak, and it would be several years before things were even close to being back where a club of Napoli's history should be.
Now, though, Napoli are becoming a power again. They finished third in Serie A after finishing second the year before. They're in the Champions League for the second season running. They've just won their second Coppa Italia in three years. And perhaps one of the most intriguing signs of the clubs return just materialized in the last few days: they have more players on World Cup provisional rosters than any other club.
Including players out on loan, Napoli have seventeen players on World Cup rosters. You read that right. Seventeen. More than Bayern Munich or AS Monaco, who had sixteen apiece. More than Manchester United, who have fourteen. More than Manchester City or Chelsea, who both ring in at twelve. It's a stunning total, and a sign of the quality of scouting and recruiting that Ricardo Bigon* has done in recent years in his role as Director of Football.
*Side note: de Laurentiis, Rafa Benitez, and Walter Mazzarri get a lot of the credit for where this squad is now, but Bigon deserves his share of the plaudits as well. He and his staff have done outstanding work.
Perhaps the most impressive feat is that there are so many nations that Napoli players will be representing. There's a few teams that have two or three Napoli players on their rosters, but the rest are scattered all over the globe, with ten countries and three continents represented in all. It's a diverse group, and a proud one.
The full list of Napoli players on provisional rosters is below. There's certainly several names on it that won't be going to Brazil once cuts are made from the provisional rosters, but it's still a heck of an achievement to have so many players this close to the World Cup.
Italy (2): Christian Maggio, Lorenzo Insigne
Spain (2): Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol
Switzerland (3): Gokhan Inler, Blerim Dzemaili, Valon Behrami
Argentina (3): Gonzalo Higuain, Federico Fernandez, Mariano Andujar*
Colombia (2): Camilo Zuniga, Pablo Armero*
Belgium (1): Dries Mertens
Brazil (1): Henrique Buss
Algeria (1): Faouzi Ghoulam
Uruguay (1): Walter Gargano*
Chile (1): Eduardo Vargas*
* - denotes player out on loan