With no upcoming fixtures (and what may be a quiet January transfer period), it’s a good time to take a look back at some of Napoli’s best players and moments of the calendar year.
Player of the year: Kalidou Koulibaly
The importance of Koulibaly to Napoli cannot be overstated. Koulibaly has been a rock at the back of the defense, for both Sarri and Ancelotti, only missing three Serie A matches in all of 2018. Since signing for Napoli from Genk in 2014, Koulibaly has seemingly improved every season at the club and shows no sign of slowing down. His combination of size, athleticism, and ability to read the game have been a blessing for the club and it’s no surprise that he has attracted interest from around Europe. Rightfully considered one of the best defenders in the world, Napoli will be keen to hold onto the Senegalese defender for at least until the end of the season but may be willing to sell in January for the right price. Il Mattino have reported that Barcelona are among those interested in the defenders services and may be willing to pay as much as 120 million euros. This high price tag is a true testament to the player Koulibaly has become after coming to Napoli four years ago for a mere 7.75 million euros.
Match of the year: Napoli 1, Juventus 0
Couldn’t have picked anything else for this. With only five games left in the Serie A season and Juventus 4 points ahead, Napoli traveled to Turin knowing that anything less than a win would mean the end of their title chances. Napoli was able withstand the early onslaught of Juventus pressure (including a Pjanic free kick hitting the post) and eventually settled into the match. Buffon made a number of critical saves in the second half to deny the visitors and it began to look as if this would not be Napoli’s night. However, just when all hoped seemed to be lost, Koulibaly was able to take advantage of poor marking from Benatia and headed in a dramatic stoppage time winner from a corner. Few gave Napoli a chance to beat Juventus in Turin but in the end they proved the doubters wrong and got a much deserved win. Even more memorable then the match itself was the celebration in Naples as the Partenopei faithful welcomed the team at the airport as they returned home.
Goal of the year: Dries Mertens vs Lazio
This goal may not have had the significance of Koulibaly’s famous header in Turin but it was still special. The interplay in midfield between Insigne, Zielinski, and Jorginho to start the attack perfectly demonstrates why Napoli are so fun to watch. Zelinski then toys with the defense and waits patiently for Mertens run to arrive who gets the slightest of touches to finish off the move.
Story of the year: Marek Hamsik breaks Bruscolotti’s all-time appearance record
As if he wasn’t already, Marek Hamsik solidified his place as a club legend when he passed Bruscolotti’s all time appearance record in Napoli’s 1-1 champions league draw with PSG earlier this season. The match marked his 512th appearance for the club since joining in 2007 and came less than a year after he broke Maradona’s all-time Napoli scoring record.