Since Aurelio De Laurentiis rescued Napoli from financial oblivion a little over a decade ago, the club has prided itself on its financial stability. Keeping balanced books and turning profits isn't something that a lot of Italian clubs can claim, especially since the economy bottomed out -- just ask Parma fans -- but Napoli managed it, turning a profit eight years in a row.
Until last season.
Sadly, Napoli's impressive streak is over, as missing out on the Champions League last season helped lead them to finish the campaign with a €13 million operating loss. While many big teams can easily move on from such a loss, this will sting for Napoli. Their profit streak had been a point of pride for the club, making them a bastion of financial stability in a time when few Italian teams have any such stability.
What caused the loss? Well, not having the €50 million-plus in revenues associated with the Champions League -- largely TV money -- certainly puts a big damper in things, but a net loss of over €10 million in the transfer market last season hurt the bottom line as well. Napoli made some €10 million from the sale of Federico Fernandez that summer, but getting only €8 million combined for Valon Behrami and Blerim Dzemaili didn't do much to help balance the books. Add in the deteriorating state of the San Paolo and ticket sales that suffered with the team's form, and you have the recipe for losing money.
Napoli's stadium looms large in their financial woes as well. The San Paolo is an incredible place, but it's old and degrading, with poor facilities. There are huge opportunity costs to playing there in terms of game day revenue that it's failing to generate. Until Napoli and the city iron out their long-standing issues on agreeing to a renovation plan and getting it done, the San Paolo will be a huge drain on the club's potential resources.
All that said, Napoli aren't in immediate financial jeopardy. The club is believed to be worth over €300 million, so a €13 million loss is far from crippling. Even considering Financial Fair Play, Napoli can easily absorb a loss of this size thanks to years of profits to balance it out. Because of the way clubs' financials are averaged over a period of several years, Napoli will more than likely still be showing a net profit once FFP numbers are tabulated for the current period.
Still, there will likely be short term consequences. The club will almost certainly try to avoid a second straight season in the red, so don't expect to see much in the way of incoming players this January. While Napoli have been active -- and effective -- in recent winter transfer windows, they're already at a net transfer loss of almost €18 million from the summer, thanks again to low-money player sales. That means that, barring a significant sale this January, one more significant than the fees Jonathan De Guzman and Camilo Zuniga will bring, Napoli won't have much in the way of a transfer budget, assuming they have one at all.
With Napoli spending big last summer and still being without the Champions League, they'll probably wind up suffering a second season of similar losses despite the club's likely efforts to stem the tide. That would be survivable, but a third straight season of losses would start to become problematic, and that means using this season to get back to the Champions League is vital. If Napoli fall short again, we'll probably see a selloff of players next summer that we will not enjoy. Let's not have to do that, please.