No, this is not a post dedicated to the wonder of the Napoli web store (although trust me, I'll probably have that for you come December). Instead, it's a little tale about a squad under-prepared for a scudetto challenge and a tough battle in the Champions League Group of Death.
Rafa Benítez did well to bring in players to supplement the Napoli attack. José Callejón is playing at a much higher level than almost anyone anticipated. Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne are upping their game by having to compete for a starting role. Gonzalo Higuaín seems settled in. And the partenopei game is much more fun to watch than it was under Walter Mazzarri.
But one thing that hasn't changed is the defense. And that's where all the focus must be. That's what every single story is going to be about from now until the January transfer window closes. Yes, Napoli are going to be linked with forwards and attackers. The links to Xherdan Shaqiri are laughable. The links to Alfreo Finnbogason might not be. But who cares? If, come February 1, Napoli have signed three vice-Pipitas and zero defenders, this will be a failed transfer window.
According to Corriere dello Sport, the partenopei have €50m to spend this winter. That must be more than enough to reinforce the defense. There will probably be enough left over to pay for repairs on Giandomenico Mesto, Camilo Zúñiga and Miguel Britos. Luca Antonelli can't cost much, so there -- cover at left back, check. Martín Montoya is a good idea for right back (Christian Maggio is thisclose to pulling a Paolo Cannavaro) but he's from the wrong town in Spain. Perhaps Napoli should plumb the depths of Real Madrid once more?
What's worrisome is that, as of late, there've been no credible rumors involving centerbacks. Yes, Britos is almost set to come back. And Federico Fernández isn't doing too horribly, although judging from his play at Juventus, he's got a burning desire to be a center forward. Raúl Albiol is solid, but he seems likely to face fitness and tiredness issues.
Central defense isn't sexy. It's not a place for big flashy names and marquee signings. But if Napoli really want to make a title challenge, and to move themselves further along in the Champions League, and become a team that truly competes at the top levels, investment must be made in the defense.
Maybe a long-term fix won't come in the January transfer window, but at the very least, a patch must be brought in to paper up the cracks. What do you think? Who's a good stop gap? Or who would you like to see at Napoli permanently? Let's start up a wishlist.