MILAN (Reuters) – It is going to be a very long walk for Italian television pundit Giancarlo Padovan.
Appearing on one of Italy’s many soccer round table programmes on Monday, Padovan said he would complete the 657 kilometres from Milan to Naples on foot if former Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Chelsea and Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti joined Napoli.
On Friday morning, Padovan was plotting his journey. “I’m going to have to do it for a question of credibility,” he said. “Obviously, I won’t go along the motorway, I’ll have to go along the back roads.”
Padovan was not the only one caught out this week when Ancelotti accepted the offer from Napoli’s film producer turned football club president Aurelio De Laurentiis.
De Laurentiis, who rescued Napoli from bankruptcy in 2004 and turned them into Serie A title contenders, has pulled off a coup few thought possible in bringing Ancelotti home after a nine-year exile.
Since leaving AC Milan in 2009, Ancelotti has won domestic league titles in France, England and Germany, and the Champions League with Real Madrid, and seemed to have outgrown Serie A which has spun into decline during his absence.
The seventh coach of the De Laurentiis era, he always seemed comfortable at big clubs with spending power and where major titles were pretty much guaranteed.
Yet, he has now been lured to a club which last won Serie A in 1990, with the clear aim of ending their frustrating run of near misses — two third places and three runners-up spots in the last six seasons.
For Ancelotti, the challenge of trying to win something with a team still regarded as underdogs could provide the boost that his career needed after he was sacked by Bayern Munich last September.
“I’m very happy to return to my country and to one of the greatest teams in Italy. We come to compete and give Napoli all our knowledge and experience,” he said on his website. “We are thrilled by this challenge.”
It may also be the shake-up Serie A needs after seven years of relentless Juventus dominance.
Ancelotti’s predecessor Maurizio Sarri turned Napoli into the neutrals’ favourite thanks to their flowing, attractive football.
But, try as they might, they simply could not dethrone Juve and, after finishing second with a club record 91 points this past season, there was a sense that Sarri had taken the team as far as he could.
His style of play was physically demanding and the team already looked weary by mid-March as they found it increasingly difficult to break down the likes of Udinese, Genoa, SPAL and Chievo.
Ancelotti knows what it takes to win major titles and, with a more pragmatic approach, could give Napoli the killer punch they previously lacked under Sarri and predecessors Walter Mazzarri and Rafael Benitez.
His mere presence could help entice the sort of big-name players who might have shunned Napoli, and Serie A itself, in previous seasons.
Already, there is talk of Napoli chasing players such as Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema and Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal.
Often the scourge of Juventus in his playing days with Roma and Milan, Ancelotti was never popular in Turin, even when he coached Juve for two seasons.
He will now be hoping to give Juventus fans another reason to dislike him.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Christian Radnedge)