Join us as we take a look at the history of one of Italy’s biggest clubs, Napoli, and pick the best Napoli XI of all time?!
Although not part of Serie A’s Big Three (AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus), Napoli football club has always been one of Italy’s biggest clubs. The club has 2 Serie A titles, 6 Coppa Italia trophies as well as 2 pieces of European silverware and alongside clubs like AS Roma and Lazio has always challenged Italy’s Big Three, if not for the title, at least in cup competitions.
While the club had won a few trophies before the 80s, it was the arrival of the legendary Diego Maradona that put the club on the map and with him the club went on to win 2 league titles. But obviously Napoli’s 94 years of history was full of other legendary players, perhaps not on the same level of Maradona but still legends nonetheless. so we figured that we should comprise what we think is the
best Napoli XI of all time
to point out some of these great players.
Apart from the great Napoli side of the mid-to-late 80s, the club has experienced a resurgence in the past decade. So it’s natural that most of the players on Napoli all-time greatest XI are from these two eras, but there are some surprises in there as well!!
One of the few players to have actually played over 200 games for two different teams in Serie A is the first name on our Napoli best XI of all time, Luciano Castellini. Born in Milan, Castellini started his career at Monza in 1965 and after getting promoted to Serie B, Castellini moved toTorino
, where he stayed for 8 seasons.
During his 8 seasons with Torino, Castellini was able to win both the Serie A and Coppa Italia. Then after 201 Serie A appearances for Torino, Castellini moved to Napoli in 1978 and spent the rest of his career there, staying 7 seasons and playing 202 games for Napoli in the Serie A.
Castellini was a great goalkeeper albeit an unlucky one, since his best years coincided with Dino Zoff, perhaps the most iconic Italian goalkeeper of all time. Even some of his impressive records such as going 531 consecutive minutes unbeaten was broken by Zoff himself.
On top of all this, Castellini retired from football in 1985, which would be a year before Napoli won its first ever Serie A title. but all this aside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better goalkeeper than Luciano Castellini in Napoli’s history and that’s exactly why he is amongst the best Napoli XI of all time.
We have the legendary Iron Pole, Giuseppe Bruscolotti as the right-back in the
Napoli all-time greatest XI
. Diego Maradona may have taken Napoli to unimaginable heights but the player that better than anyone else represents the values of Napoli is Giuseppe Bruscolotti. The Italian fullback spent 16 seasons at Napoli and was for the longest time their record appearance holder.
As mentioned above, Bruscolotti was an imposing right-back that gave no quarter to any attacker and therefor was named
"Pal e fierr"
by Napoli fans. He started his career at Sorrento in 1970 and after a couple of seasons joined Napoli in 1972. Bruscolotti was regularly featured for Napoli in the 70s and helped the club win the Anglo-Italian League Cup, the final of which he scored in, and also a Coppa Italia in 1975-76 season.
Bruscolotti was Napoli’s captain between 1978 and 1984 and after Maradona’s arrival he gave the armband to him but didn’t stop leading the club. In 1986-87, Bruscolotti finally won the Serie A with the club that he dedicated most of his career to and a couple of years later he retired from football after 511 matches and 11 goals for Napoli, a club record for appearances that was broken only a few years ago by Marek Hamsik.
Next on the Napoli best 11 of all time, we haveChristian Maggio
, a dynamic attack minded right back who could’ve also played as a right wing-back or even a right winger because of his incredible attacking prowess. Maggio was a big part of the team that brought silverware to Napoli for the first time after 1990.
Starting his career at Vicenza, Maggio began playing more regularly after the club was relegated to Serie B in 2001. He then transferred to Fiorentina in 2003 and helped the club win a promotion back to Serie A in his debut season but after a few seasons Maggio moved toSampdoria
where he finally started to hit the best form of his career which earned him a move to Napoli in 2008.
At Napoli, Maggio brought his game to a whole new level and even became a national team regular. He helped Napoli win the Coppa Italia in 2011-12 season and was featured in Serie A Team of the Season that year as well as the two subsequent seasons.
Maggio also featured heavily for Italy in the Euro 2012, where Italy was runner-up. Another Coppa Italia in the 2013-14 followed before Maggio ended his decade of service to Napoli in 2018, after 307 games and 23 goals and now he takes his rightful place amongst the
best Napoli XI of all time
One of the greatest ever Italian defenders, Ciro Ferrara, is the next player on our
Napoli best 11 of all time
. Ferrara is a legend of both Napoli and Juventus, which is no small task considering the enormity of both clubs. A native of Naples, Ferrara got to play for his boyhood club after going through the ranks of Napoli’s academy and after getting his debut in 1984, became a huge part of Napoli’s golden years that saw the club win several pieces of silverware.
Ciro Ferrara is considered to be one of the first modern center-backs as he possessed the stamina, toughness and tackling ability of classic center-backs as well as the technique, passing ability and the flair of a midfield player, which made him perfect for any position along the back line as well as the sweeper role. His impressive performances with Napoli earned him regular call-ups for the national team and he was part of Italy’s squad in Euro 1988, 1990 World Cup and Euro 2000 achieving 3rd and 2nd place finishes in the last two.
Ferrara spent a decade at Napoli and he was able to help the club win two Serie A titles, 1 Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup. in 1994, after 322 games and 15 goals, Ferrara joinedJuventus
where he won 5 more Serie A titles as well as a Champions League. Players like Ferrara are why Italian football is known for its great defenders and that is precisely the reason why he is on our best Napoli XI of all time.
The last defender on our Napoli best 11 of all time is Moreno Ferrario. Part of the famous double winning side of 1986-87, Moreno Ferrario spent 11 seasons at Napoli and holds the 4th most number of appearances for the club. Ferrario was generally deployed as a center back but he could also play the role of a sweeper and was one of the main reasons that Napoli had such a solid defensive unit back in the 80s.
Born in 1959, Ferrario started his professional football atVarese
in 1975 and after a couple of seasons there moved to Napoli in 1977, where he ended up spending more than half of his career. During those years he helped Napoli become genuine Serie A contenders as well as being one of the best teams in Europe, although Diego Maradona played a huge role in that!
In one of the last seasons that Moreno Ferrario played for Napoli, the club was able to win a historic double as they won both the Coppa Italia and the Serie A title in the 1986-87 season. After 396 appearances for Napoli, Ferrario joinedRoma
in 1988 but he has been immortalized as one of Napoli’s greatest, because of the longevity of his career at Napoli and also that double winning season, which makes him a great candidate for our best Napoli XI of all time.
There aren’t many midfielders out there that are their nation’s all-time leading goal scorer and their club’s 2nd leading goal scorer butMarek Hamsik
is one of them. The Slovakian midfielder joined Napoli in 2007 and alongside players like Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, who are all amongst our
Napoli best XI of all time
, ushered in a new era of success for the club.
After two good seasons withBrescia
, Hamsik joined the newly promoted Napoli in Serie A and immediately became a pillar of the team. In his 12 seasons at Napoli, Hamsik scored more than 10 goals-a-season in 8 of those, which is an insane number for a midfielder. He was also Serie A’s best assist provider in 2 of those seasons as well as being part of the Serie A Team of the Year on 3 separate occasions.
A severely underrated player, Hamsik was able to help Napoli to 2 Coppa Italias and a Supercoppa Italiana during his stay, all the while breaking the records for both the number of appearances (520) and goals (121) for Napoli, although his goal scoring record has since been broken by Dries Mertens.
Hamsik left Napoli in 2019 to join Dalian Professional and now plays forGoteborg
in Sweden. The impact that he had on Napoli’s success after their return to Serie A was monumental and as the club’s captain he carried his team to unprecedented success, which is why he is amongst our best Napoli XI of all time.
Moving from a recent legend of Napoli to one of their first legendary players, the great Antonio Juliano, who played for Napoli between 1962 and 1978. Juliano helped bring silverware for both Napoli and the Italian national side in the 60s and 70s and is regarded as one of Italy’s greatest players. He also holds the 3rd most appearances for Napoli behind Marek Hamsik and Bruscolotti, two other players on our
greatest Napoli XI of all time
Antonio Juliano was part of the youth set-up at Napoli and finally got to play for his childhood team in 1962. A creative midfielder, Juliano acted as Napoli’s playmaker for almost two decades. His passing ability, coupled with his great vision, ball control and technique made Juliano a perfect playmaker. After winning the Coppa delle Alpi in 1966 with Napoli, Juliano helped Italy win the 1968 Euro on home soil. He was also part of the Italian side that were runner-ups in the 1970 World Cup.
Antonio Juliano’s first and arguably only major trophy with Napoli was the 1975-76 Coppa Italia. Juliano left the club a couple of years later after 505 appearances and 38 goals. he retired from football in 1979 and immediately became Napoli’s sporting director and ended up playing a big role in the transfer of Ruud Krol and Diego Maradona. A Napoli legend on and off the pitch, Juliano certainly gets the nod in our best Napoli XI of all time.
It’s not a stretch to say that the Eternal Diego is some kind of deity in the city of Naples. The amount of Maradona’s pictures and portraits that have been plastered all over Naples’ streets, walls and buildings, make the city a monument and a giant cathedral for the late Argentinian wizard. To prove this point further, Napoli’s home stadium has also been named after him since his unfortunate passing last year. There have been books, movies and countless articles about Diego Maradona but here we’ll have to just briefly glance at his illustrious career at Napoli.
Many play football for glory, money or fame but for Maradona, the joy of playing football came first, even in his darkest days, and everything else followed. Maradona arrived atNapoli
in 1984, at the height of the North-South economical and cultural conflict in Italy. He was greeted as a savior by the struggling people of Naples and he delivered as he transformed the club entirely and soon led them to their first ever Serie A title.
During his time at the club, Maradona almost single-handedly led Napoli to two Serie A titles as well as 2 2nd place finishes. He also helped them win a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup, the final of which he both scored and assisted in. he also became Napoli’s all-time leading goalscorer with 115 goals in 259 matches over the course of 7 seasons. A symbol of Napoli football club, Diego Maradona is simply greater than any club he played for, as he was the embodiment of every football fan’s dream. He was the joy of football incarnate!
Napoli’s all-time leading goal scorer and current main man is the next player on our greatest Napoli XI of all time. The Belgian striker was quite the late-bloomer but because of his physique as well as his playing style, Mertens has enjoyed a lengthy career at Napoli since he joined the club in 2013 fromEindhoven
and has since then scored double figures in every season.
Known for his dribbling, pace and shooting ability,Mertens
could be deployed in any position in the attack. And precisely because of his wide range of skills, he has been successful at all those positions. Napoli’s former manager Maurizio Sarri even deployed him as a center forward in the 2016-17 season which became Mertens’ personal best as he scored 28 goals in Serie A, almost won the Golden Boot and was short-listed for the Ballon d’Or.
As of writing this article, Dries Mertens has scored 135 goals for Napoli and is the club’s all-time leading goal scorer. He has won 2 Coppa Italias with Napoli and has been named in Serie A Team of the Year once. At 33, Mertens shows no sign of slowing down and is a hugely popular figure in Naples. Mertens’ accomplishments with Napoli ensure that no
best Napoli XI of all time
would be complete without his name and that is perhaps the best any player could ask for!
One of the most beloved Napoli players of all-time and their current captain is also on our Napoli best XI of all time. A native of Naples and born in 1991,Lorenzo Insigne
has been a part of Napoli football club since he was 15, although he has been on 3 loan spells since 2010. Known for his incredible pace and dribbling ability as well as his incredible vision, Insigne has been one of Italy’s best players in the past decade.
Although he made his debut for Napoli in the 2009-10 season, it wasn’t until the 2012-13 season that Insigne became a regular player for Napoli. A year later he became Coppa Italia’s top scorer and helped the club win the competition. His personal best season was in the 2016-17 season where he scored 18 goals in Serie A, which he may very well break this season as he already has 17 goals. he also helped Napoli to another Coppa Italia trophy last year as he scored his penalty in shoot-outs.
While there has been interest in Insigne from some of the biggest clubs in Europe, he has chosen to stay loyal to Napoli, which has made him an extremely popular figure amongst the fans. Insigne is already 5th in both the number of appearances (397) and goals (107) for Napoli and he may very well break both records if he chooses to stay with Napoli for at least several more seasons. But for now he absolutely deserves a spot in our greatest Napoli XI of all time.
Rounding out our best Napoli XI of all time is a player that was with Napoli even before they were called Napoli. Born to wealthy Italian parents in Asuncion, Paraguay, Attila Sallustro moved to Italy when he was young as his father wanted him to play football there. He began playing for Internaples at the youth system and after spending the 1925-26 season with them at the senior level, the club changed its name to Napoli.
Sallustro was so loyal to Napoli that he refused to get paid for playing for the club, which made him a popular figure amongst fans as well. A fact that was only bolstered by his great goal scoring record. Napoli however once thanked him for his services by gifting him an expensive car!
For the longest time, Attila Sallustro was Napoli’s all-time leading goal scorer with 107 goals in 266 matches until the great Diego Maradona broke his record in a similar amount of games, which tells you of how good Sallustro actually was. Although he was famously snubbed in the Italian national team, with Inter’s Giuseppe Meazza taking his place, Sallustro was and is an important figure in the city of Naples. And perhaps it’s fitting that the last player in our best Napoli XI of all time is this club’s first icon.