The Europa League came to a disappointing and frustrating end for Napoli two weeks ago, but their run to the semi-finals wasn't entirely without reward. A "panel of experts" selected a matchday-style squad of 18 players, and a fan vote declared the best eleven for a starting squad. Champions Sevilla and runners up Dnipro dominated that top group with seven players in it, but Napoli have two players as well, with Marek Hamsik and Faouzi Ghoulam named to the competition's elite for the season.
Marek Hamsik had his struggles this season, partly thanks to wildly inconsistent playing time, but he dominated in the Europa League when given a chance. In seven starts and give substitute appearances, he scored four goals and bagged a pair of assists, running the show for Napoli in attack and helping them dominate Wolfsburg and beat a few other very good sides along the way. The Slovakian may be frustrated at how the season has turned out, but he can at least look back with pride at how well he performed in the Europa League.
Faouzi Ghoulam started eleven times in the Europa League and subbed in twice more, notching two assists and keeping the left flank locked down for most of his time on the pitch. He struggled against Dnipro, but before that he faced down some tough attackers and came out the better every time. He also shwoed off his attacking skills, with bombing runs that opposing teams always had to account for, helping to open up space for the rest of his teammates to exploit.
Napoli had two other players in the full "matchday" 18, with Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol also named to that preliminary list. Higuain scored seven goals in the Europa League, good for second in the competition, and Albiol anchored a defense that was widely regarded as one of the best in Europa, despite their painful struggles in domestic competition.
Only one other Serie A player made the 18, with Fiorentina midfielder Borja Valero named to the initial list of 18 players before being left off the final eleven. The fill list of honored players is below.
Europa League First XI
Goalkeeper: Denys Boyko (Dnipro)
Defense: Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Douglas (Dnipro), Aleix Vidal (Sevilla)
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro)
Forwards: Alan (FC Salzburg), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro)
Bench: Sergio Rico (Sevilla), Timothée Kolodziejczak (Sevilla), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Borja Valero (Fiorentina), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Stephane M'Bia (Sevilla), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli)