Napoli's drop out of the title race and now their desperately slipping grasp on second might have consequences beyond just their drop in the table and the increase in ulcers among the fanbase -- apparently there's a chance it could cost Maurizio Sarri his job.
That's what's being reported in Italy right now, at least, with La Gazzetta dello Sport running a story that says that there is a chance that Sarri will not be retained if Napoli finish third at the end of the season. It's not a guarantee, but apparently Aurelio De Laurentiis is reconsidering whether or not to activate the first option clause in Sarri's contract, and will wait until the end of the season before deciding.
Six months ago, La Gazzetta claims, ADL would have triggered that option in a heartbeat, but now that the window for doing so has opened, Napoli's recent slide has their owner experiencing doubts. A disastrous February saw Napoli gracelessly crash out of the Europa League and Coppa Italia, and an incident in that Coppa match between Sarri and Roberto Mancini brought accusations of homophobia to Sarri and disrepute to the club. Things stabilized somewhat in March, but April has seen the partenopei slip again, giving Juventus the chance to clinch the title early and giving Roma an excellent chance to snatch second place out from under Napoli.
That situation, coupled with a rumored "cooling" relationship between Sarri and De Laurentiis over the support the manager has received, might lead to Sarri being on the outs come the end of the season. That would be a dramatic reversal in fortune for both club and manager, who were enjoying the highest of highs just a few short months ago, sitting atop the league and drawing acclaim from all corners.
While the report is somewhat flimsy -- it's all based on rumors and perhaps even on suppositions and leaps in logic -- perhaps the strangest part of it is that apparently fragmented relationship between manager and owner. According to these rumors, Sarri feels "under supported" by the club, both in the media and in the transfer market, with the January window proving to be a particular sticking point. The supposed lack of media support is especially strange as a point of conflict, as Napoli and De Laurentiis have backed Sarri to the hilt in the press every time anything remotely negative came up, and even lashed out through the media on his behalf several times during the Mancini incident.
The transfer issues are perhaps understandable, though Sarri himself isn't exactly absent of blame. ADL did promise a high profile signing of some kind, but instead Napoli wound up with Alberto Grassi and Vasco Regini. Neither player has played a minute for Napoli since signing, though, with De Laurentiis preferring other options at their positions, even in late-game situations during blowouts. While De Laurentiis tried and ultimately failed to get Sarri more significant help, Sarri hasn't even tried to make use of what he did get.
It must be stressed again that these reports appear to be based solely on rumor and supposition, and little in the way of concrete facts. Still, considering everything else the club is dealing with, the stress and pressure to perform as they face three must-win matches to close out the season, having this added as another source of stress, as another distraction, is exactly what Napoli don't need right now. Hopefully things work out for the best, but right now it's starting to get hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.