After a fantastic 2022/23 season, Napoli (or Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli, to give them their grand full name) have won the Serie A title in Italy for just the third time in their history. This puts the one ahead of the likes of Lazio and Fiorentina and draws them level with Roma. They are still miles behind all-time Serie A record holders Juventus (who have 36 titles), Inter (19) and Milan (19), and even Genoa (9), Torino (7) and Bologna (7) are well ahead. But for the people of Naples, this title means the world (as was in evidence on the streets of the city on the night their side clinched the title).
While the 2022/23 season has been amazing for Napoli, let’s take a look back at the first and second times Gli Azzurri won the scudetto, starting with the 1986/87 campaign. Before that, though, let’s check the stats for their previous two Serie A-winning seasons. (Note that teams were awarded two points for a win back then.)
1986/87 – Diego Maradona Inspires Napoli to the Double
Prior to the 1986/87 season, Napoli had never won a Serie A title. They came close on several occasions since their formation in 1926, most notably when they finished as the runners-up in both 1967/68 (when they lost out to Milan) and 1974/75 (when Juventus took the title by just two points).
The Napoli squad in 1986/87 was made up predominantly of homegrown talent, with the exception of Argentina’s recent World Cup hero, Diego Maradona. The addition to the squad of Andrea Carnevale from Udinese added some extra bite in attack, while Bruno Giordano and Salvatore Bagni also made significant contributions.
Juventus had won six of the previous 10 league titles and they went into the season as favourites to retain their crown. But when Napoli, under the guidance of manager Ottavio Bianchi, went through the first 13 league matches unbeaten, pundits and fans began to take the Naples side’s title credentials seriously. That fine run also included a result that would prove crucial: a 3-1 victory over Juventus in Turin.
Napoli then had a setback when losing 3-1 themselves, to Fiorentina, but they then won five in a row to put themselves very much in the mix for the title. With Maradona pulling the strings and the majority of goals being shared between the Argentine maestro, Carnevale and Giordano, Napoli matched towards glory and when they beat Juventus for the second time in the March, things looked particularly good.
Having said that, they almost threw it away as they only won one of their final six league games, but they drew four of them and that was enough to enable them to win Serie A by a margin of three points. Then, for good measure, Napoli also won the Coppa Italia to become just the third Italian side to do the double (after Torino and Juve, though Lazio and Inter have since achieved the feat).
1989/90 – Second Title in Three Years
Napoli continued their fine form in the two seasons after their historic Serie A triumph, but had to settle for the runners-up spot in both 1987/88 (behind Milan) and 1988/89 (behind Inter). There was some consolation in the 1988/89 campaign, however, when Napoli landed their first UEFA Cup (which, to date, is their only major European trophy… we’re not counting their 1976 Anglo-Italian League Cup win, in case you were wondering!).
But let’s move back to the 1989/90 campaign, by which point former Cesena and Reggina boss Alberto Bigon had become the Napoli manager. Serie A was packed full of talented squads at the time that included some of the best players on the planet. Milan had their fantastic Dutch trio of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, Inter looked to Germany for their stars of the day (Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klinsmann), while homegrown stars Roberto Baggio (Fiorentina), and Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli (both at Sampdoria) were helping their sides’ quests for glory.
For Napoli, the main man was still very much the mercurial genius, Maradona. But, having clearly enjoyed the services of an Argentine, they also added a couple of Brazilians to the mix: defensive midfielder Alemão and sharp-shooting striker Careca. The combination worked brilliantly and with Carnevale still contributing and Maradona having his best season in terms of league goals, it meant Napoli were very much the team to beat.
As with their title-winning campaign of 1986/87, Napoli got off to an excellent start this time around. In fact it was an even stronger opening to the season as they went 16 games unbeaten. During that run they got the better of title rivals Milan (3-0) and Inter (2-0).
Their first defeat came at the end of December when they lost 3-0 away to Lazio, but they bounced back tremendously to win five and draw one of their next six. February was a tough month for Napoli (and their fans) as they tasted defeat to both sides from Milan, going down 3-0 to Milan and 3-1 to Inter. Another defeat in March (2-1 to Sampdoria) left the Neapolitans with lots of work to do to force their way back into the title race. But then Maradona showed his undoubted talent.
The Argentina ace scored twice in his side’s 3-1 victory over the much-hated Juventus, and then again in wins over Bari and Bologna. In fact, Napoli ended up winning their last five matches and took the title by two points ahead of Milan, another northern giant who Napoli fans hate with a passion. The club won the Supercoppa Italiana the following season, but then had to wait until the 2011/12 season to win anything else (the Coppa Italia, which they also won in 2013/14 and 2019/20). But now that this incredible club have won their third scudetto, perhaps their aim for next season will be the Champions League, as they chase the dream of becoming European champions for the first time in their history.