No beating around the bush with a flowery introduction on this one: according to Italian newspaper Tuttosport, Aurelio De Laurentiis is heading to America to talk to potential investors about the sale of Napoli.
De Luarentiis, who just celebrated his ten-year anniversary of owning the club, has always been known for making bold moves both with the club and in his film business, but this comes as a shock. While he's certainly been unhappy with the club's results this season and has always seemed discontent at best with the political nature of Serie A and Italian football, this is a sudden, huge report that could completely alter the shape of Napoli as we know it.
According to Tuttosport, De Laurentiis recently met with a yet-unnamed American film director that he knows in Rome and will be meeting him again in the United States very soon. While on the surface that doesn't seem unusual, De Laurentiis being a producer and all, that director apparently also represents a group of Italian-Americans who are descendants of Naples, are very rich, and want to buy a majority share of the club they love.
Apparently the group has been interested for some time, but have held off making a formal approach because they have concerns over Napoli's operating structure and the amount of time and effort it would take to get it in line with how they want things to work.
This news seemingly comes out of nowhere, but if true it could help explain a couple nagging oddities from this past summer. Talks and planning over the renovations of the San Paoli have seemingly stalled recently, with Naples' mayor reminding De Laurentiis several times through the media that there are steps to the process that are coming due soon. There's also the matter of the contract extension for Rafa Benitez that was reported early in the summer, when things were still nice and rosy; one moment it sounded all but done and a mere formality, and then it just disappeared in to the ether.
While on their own, these things don't necessarily mean much, coupled with this rumor they make a lot more sense in context. Both are issues you want to put on hold while negotiating the potential sale of a club, as new owners would want to handle stadium renovations themselves, and have the chance to pick their own manager rather than deal with one with a big new extension. It might also help explain the thin summer activity, though that made sense for other financial reasons.
This is obviously, a huge, huge story for Napoli and its fans. Things still seem to be very early in the process, especially since we don't know the identity of this investment group other than that their heritage is rooted in Naples. As we learn more information, we'll bring it to you as soon as possible, and break things down for you as we can. This could be a long ride.