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Transfer Review: The Warriors Of Winter

Even after a large overhaul of the roster in the summer, a few more players were needed as the weather turned cold.

This guy turned out to be surprisingly useful.
This guy turned out to be surprisingly useful.
Giuseppe Bellini

Napoli were plenty busy adding to the squad in the summer months, but had plenty to do in the winter as well. Napoli were busy in the transfer window, adding three key pieces to their squad, as well as a free transfer signing made on either side of the window thanks to situations of dire need.

The expenditure wasn't as big on the winter signings, just €14 million total, but it was no less important a set of signings, with the three purchased players providing the squad with 48 starts across all competitions and the two free transfer signings another 19. They're certainly a group that deserves digging in to further, which is exactly what we're doing below.

Statistical data from whoscored, with additions from transfermarkt for Coppa Italia data. Transfer fees listed are approximate and based on news reports from the time of purchase.

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From: Hellas Verona, €5 million (co-ownership)
Central Midfield
19 appearances, 16 starts
1 goal, 1 assist

Jorginho was the first signing Napoli made in January, and was the star of the group. His presence in midfield very quickly helped sort out issues of balance and structure that Napoli had been suffering in the middle of the park all season long, and his quality was noticeable on the pitch even when he wasn't pinging around divinely accurate long balls and through passes to his attackers.

Perhaps the best sign of his impact as a player was what happened when he wasn't in the lineup. Especially in Napoli's Europa league matches, a competition he wasn't registered for in exchange for helping defensive depth, the side's fluidity in the central areas of the pitch suffered, and other players struggled to make up for his absence.

Jorginho's deceptively all-round quality is a vital cog for a squad like Napoli, offering Rafa Benitez an option not entirely unlike that of Xabi Alonso, who starred for Rafa at Liverpool. He will be of immense value for Napoli moving forward, as long as they can keep hold of him, as the big clubs are sure to come sniffing around a player of his quality a whole sooner than later.

Transfer Grade: A- This is one that worked out pretty swimmingly. Jorginho has yet to fully integrate in to the playmaking aspect of his role with the club, but despite that there's plenty of reason to hope for an even brighter future on top of the already-successful present that the young midfielder has enjoyed.

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Henrique Buss
From: Palmeiras, €4 million
Center Back
17 appearances, 13 starts
1 goal, 0 assists

I expressed a certain (read: heavy) amount of skepticism when Henrique Buss signed with Napoli. He'd never displayed any signs of being particularly good in his past spell in Europe, and had shown little if any sign of improvement after returning to Brazil with Palmeiras. Most of his early appearances with Napoli were much the same, with his performances as a defensive midfielder and at center back against Porto and in Italy standing out as concerns as to his quality.

Then, out of desperation for lack of better options, Rafa Benitez threw him in at right back, and something really seemed to click for Henrique. He played the role with aplomb, including better offensive support chops than expected, albeit with a predictably poor shot and cross in his right foot. There were certainly moments of Henrique playing there that left you shaking your head, but there was more good than bad on a whole.

I still wouldn't want to rely on Henrique as a regular starter, but as a utility defender you could do a lot worse. He certainly proved his value at the tail end of the season, and will have a plenty big role to fill with Napoli next season.

Transfer Grade: B His first few months with Napoli was a predictably up-and-down period, but the most "up" came at an important time at an unexpected position, which is undoubtedly part of how he found himself on Brazil's World Cup roster.

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Faouzi Ghoulam
From: AS Saint-Etienne, €5 million
Left Back
21 appearances, 19 starts
0 goals, 1 assist

Before signing with Napoli, Faouzi Ghoulam was a relatively unheralded prospect. The 23 year old had played his whole career at Saint-Etienne, a thoroughly second-rate team in Ligue 1, and France's top division doesn't exactly draw the attention it once did. Those who did notice him knew him more as "the guy who played next to Kurt Zouma" than as a distinct player in his own right.

Riccardo Bigon noticed, though, and took advantage of Saint-Etienne's financial woes to get Ghoulam for a song. What Napoli landed themselves was a well-rounded left back who's a perfect fit for the tactical system employed by Rafa Benitez. He stabilized a position that had been a massive problem all season long, and played a key role in several of Napoli's biggest matches in the second half of the year.

This is a player who's not just going to give Napoli quality now, he's going to get better. This was a brilliant signing for Napoli, and one that's only going to get better as time goes on.

Transfer Grade: A+ This is a deal that's worked out magnificently for Napoli so far, and will likely continue to pay dividends. Napoli have found not just their left back of the future, but their left back of now, and no one should be surprised if he's included among the best left backs in Italy by the end of next season.

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Anthony Reveillere
From: Free Transfer (fmr. Lyon)
18 appearances, 18 starts
0 goals, 1 assist

Before signing Reveillere, Napoli had exactly one healthy fullback on the roster, and that was an extremely out of form Pablo Armero. Fortunately Christian Maggio was able to return from his injury a little sooner than expected, and Reveillere was able to fill in at left back until the signing of Ghoulam. Afterwards, he was the first fullback off the bench when someone needed to be rotated out, swapping between both sides.

Truth be told, Reveillere wasn't very good. His pace is pretty much gone, and his technical skills were never good enough to function at an above-average level without it. He struggled with any winger with good pace , and even against more average opposition he only did an adequate job most times. On the plus side, his own injury allowed Ghoulam to start his ascendance to truly becoming Napoli's left back of the future.

Transfer Grade: C Reveillere was rarely impressive, and too often mediocre or poor, but it's unlikely any other fullback available on a free at the time would have done any better. He helped the team limp through a serious depth crisis without too much pain, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

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Toni Doblas
From: Free Transfer (fmr. Xäzär Länkäran)
2 appearances, 1 start
2 goals allowed

After Rafael Cabral went down with an ACL injury, Napoli started a desperate search for a halfway decent goalkeeper available on a free transfer. Their search landed them with Toni Doblas, a journeman goalkeeper who'd found himself out of favor with his Azerbaijani club and eventually released from his contract by them.

Doblas isn't anything especially notable for a goalkeeper, but the 33 year old is experienced, and was an improvement in quality in Roberto Colombo (bless his ancient soul). He wasn't anything fancy, but he didn't need to be, and he did his job just fine.

Transfer Grade: Incomplete It's hard to make a complete judgment based on just a match and a half, though he did exactly what has needed of him: back up Pepe Reina while Rafael was injured, and play when needed.