All hail Napoli's new immortals! Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia & Luciano Spalletti have made Diego Maradona proud with stunning Serie A title triumph
Ten minutes after full-time in Turin and Napoli striker Giacomo Raspadori was still shaking, the significance of his injury-time winner against Juventus almost too much to take. His well-taken volley hadn't just ended his painful six-month goal drought; it had effectively sealed the Serie A title. "It has been a difficult time for me with injuries," an emotional Raspadori explained on the evening of April 23, "but the staff helped me through it, and the squad and the fans always showed their love for me."
Meanwhile, his captain, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, was also struggling to get his head around such a surreal situation. Just six years ago, he had been playing in the third tier of Italian football. Now, he would become the first Napoli player since "the great (Diego) Maradona" to lift the Scudetto. "It does feel strange," the defender admitted to DAZN. "But we are all trying to savour every moment of a wonderful journey."
The players certainly enjoyed their flight back to Naples. They sang, they danced and then, in the early hours of Monday morning, they were joined at Capodichino airport by thousands of jubilant supporters, some of whom jumped on their vespas to follow the team bus all the way back to the club's headquarters.
#Napoli accompagna il pullman della squadra al rientro da Torino.— Fabrizio Biasin (@FBiasin) April 24, 2023
Star striker Victor Osimhen kept saying the same thing over and over again: "It's crazy, man, it's crazy!" And it was - just pure, unadulterated insanity. But it was also wholly unsurprising.
Coach Luciano Spalletti kept trying to stress that there was still a little bit of work to do in terms of the title, but there was simply no tempering the almost palpable sense of anticipation surrounding the club's first Scudetto in 33 years.
The party had been long since prepared. Napoli's title rivals had already been 'buried'. The bakers' blue bread was even rolled out last week.
And then came the anti-climax, Napoli held at home by Salernitana last Sunday when a victory would have clinched the title in front of their own fans, and on a bank holiday weekend to boot.
Osimhen had written on Twitter after the Juve win, "Dear Neapolitans, you've waited long enough. Now, it's your turn..."
But then they were forced to wait and Serie A's capocannoniere felt personally responsible, having been nutmegged Boulaye Dia before the Salernitana forward had silenced the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Osimhen was visibly distraught but the delay felt fitting, symbolic of a struggle: his, Spalletti's and Napoli's.
Besides, Sunday's disappointment only made Thursday's decisive strike at Udinese all the sweeter.