The regista at the base of the Napoli has been a subject of much discussion in the fanbase and media. It's a new position for Napoli, who over the last couple of years have used a two-man pivot in front of the defense. Now with the return of a three-man midfield, Maurizio Sarri has eschewed a defensive-minded player there in favor of that deeper playmaker, a role epitomized in Italy by the great Andrea Pirlo.
To help that transition, Napoli bought Mirko Valdifiori this summer, a midfielder who has played that role to great effect under Sarri over the past couple of years. Napoli already had one guy who seemed suited to the role, though, Jorginho, the Brazilian-born midfielder with Italian national team dreams, though who had struggled in the first team last season.
It was assumed that, based on Valdifiori's familiarity with Sarri and stronger performance last season, that he would be the man tapped to start the season at regista with Jorginho serving as his backup. At first, that's exactly how things played out, with Valdifiori preferred during preseason, looking sharp and confident while Jorginho looked slow and uncertain.
Once the games started to count, though, things looked different. Valdifiori looked shaky and lacked the same sharpness he displayed in preseason. When he was brought in as a sub, Jorginho looked quicker and more effective on the ball, and when he started against Lazio and Club Brugge, he was vital to a pair of resounding 5-0 wins. Then Valdifiori started on Sunday against Carpi, and Napoli lacked incision and quality on the ball again.
So what gives? What's going on at the position?
Sarri tried to shed some light on that after the match, indicating that Jorginho has earned his respect and preferenceas Napoli's top regista, and that Valdifiori only started because Jorginho needed to "catch his breath." That makes sense, as starting two matches so close to each other after not playing a ton of preseason or league matches before that can really take it out of you.
That's not the most interesting thing that Sarri said, though. This was:
Valdifiori is not my man, but he was chosen by [Aurelio] De Laurentiis.
Wait, what? That seems to be a pretty strong implication that Sarri may not have been especially interested in bringing Valdifiori over from Empoli this summer, but that De Laurentiis drove the purchase himself. There's enough history to give credence to such a claim -- hi there, Miguel Britos -- but Sarri not wanting one of his best player from his last team to help ease the transition for his new one seems a bit strange.
Then again, Sarri has talked several times about not really caring about the transfer market. He'll tell his sporting director what kind of players he wants, but otherwise he'd rather just focus on the players on his training pitch. Maybe that's all he means by it, but if that was the case, the phrasing seems a little... strong.
This is going to be an interesting dynamic to watch unfold over the coming weeks. Valdifiori was supposed to be "his guy." If that turns out to be Jorginho instead, it will make those who doubted Valdifiori's signing all the louder in their questioning of the team.