Cristiano Ronaldo got rid of Rudi Garcia so why did Napoli hire him?! Shock appointment could spell disaster for Serie A title holders

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Cristiano Ronaldo Rudi Garcia Al-Nassr 2023 GFX
After Luciano Spalletti's shock departure, Aureli De Laurentiis has stunned the world of Italian football by hiring the Frenchman as his successor

Daniel De Rossi was on international duty with Italy in the summer of 2013 when Roma announced Rudi Garcia as their new coach. The midfielder wasn't just surprised; he was mystified. He'd never heard of Garcia.

So, he performed a cursory Google search and promptly discovered a video of his new boss playing guitar and singing 'Porompompero'.

He turned to Italy team-mate Andrea Pirlo and said, "Sh*t, look who they've got..."

"At the time, they were talking about (Massimo) Allegri," De Rossi recalled in an interview with So Foot, "and, honestly, I had some doubts."

It's fair to say that Napoli fans are experiencing similar sensations this morning, after the club confirmed on Thursday evening that Garcia has been appointed as Luciano Spalletti's successor at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The situation is slightly different, of course. Unlike De Rossi, the supporters are familiar with Garcia - but that's actually the primary reason for their current state of shock.

  1. De Zerbi was the dream

    De Zerbi was the dream

    Make no mistake about it: this is a decision nobody saw coming. On Thursday afternoon, some respected Italian journalists were still claiming that Napoli were going all out to try to convince Luis Enrique to take over. 

    The Spaniard's potential arrival had been greeted with enthusiasm by many fans. Spain may have been upset by Morocco at the World Cup but they weren't alone in that regard and besides, he remains a treble winner from his time at Barcelona.

    He wasn't the only high-profile coach linked with the vacancy either. Julian Nagelsmann's name was bandied about for a while, even if he never appeared a serious contender, but Antonio Conte was considered, just as he had been a few years ago. 

    Then, there was the group of up-and-coming managers, which included Thiago Motta, Vincenzo Italiano and, most thrillingly of all from the fans' perspective, Roberto De Zerbi. 

    The Brighton boss was deemed the dream appointment, with the former Napoli attacking midfielder having arguably proven himself the most intriguing tactician in world football with a sixth-placed finish in last season's Premier League. However, it quickly became clear that De Zerbi wanted to remain at the Amex; that he didn't feel his work there was done. 

    Consequently, in recent days, Paulo Sousa and Christophe Galtier emerged as the frontrunners in the Italian press.

    Sousa had done an excellent job after taking over Salernitana in February, avoiding relegation quite comfortably in the end mainly thanks to a ten-game unbeaten run that included a 1-1 draw at the Maradona that delayed Napoli's Scudetto celebrations.

    Galtier, meanwhile, is set to become the latest victim of the poisoned chalice that is Paris Saint-Germain, but he is still considered one of the best coaches in France, primarily because of the fact that he managed to win a Ligue 1 title with Lille.

  2. Fired by Ronaldo

    Fired by Ronaldo

    However, Napoli instead turned to one of Galtier's compatriots, the one who had been last seen effectively getting sacked by Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr.

    Perhaps the pair's relationship had been doomed from the start. In Ronaldo's introductory press conference in January, Garcia had joked that he had actually tried to sign Lionel Messi first. Cue uncomfortable laughter all round.

    In truth, though, it would be a couple more weeks before things really took a turn for the worse. 

    After a 3-1 loss to title rivals Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Super Cup on January 26, Garcia argued that a Ronaldo miss had played a pivotal role in his side's defeat, claiming it "changed the course of the match"

    Their rapport was never quite the same from that moment on and, after months of simmering tension, things came to a head after a 0-0 draw with Al-Feiha on April 9.

  3. Garcia after Spalletti feels like a bad joke

    Garcia after Spalletti feels like a bad joke

    After Ronaldo had stormed down the tunnel at the end of a frustrating affair, Garcia publicly criticised his team. "I don't feel satisfied with the players' performance," he told reporters. "I asked them to play at the same level as the last game [a 5-0 win over Al-Adalah], but this didn’t happen."

    Garcia was sacked just four days later.

    Ronaldo paid tribute to the sacked manager with a social media post, saying that it had been "a pleasure" working with the 59-year-old, but it was widely reported that the forward had played an integral role in his exit, having been left distinctly unimpressed with Garcia's tactics, which he allegedly felt were holding the team back.

    Ronaldo is obviously not the easiest guy to manage - and it's worth pointing out that Garcia had Al-Nassr on top of the table before the mid-season arrival of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

    However, in the eyes of Napoli fans, failing to win the Pro League with Ronaldo up front is not a good look. Losing Spalletti was bad enough, but getting Garcia to replace him feels like a joke - and one that only their rivals are laughing at. 

    Indeed, there is an obvious concern that he will struggle to come close to matching the extraordinary work done by his predecessor, who managed to take a team that many feared would fail to finish in the top four and transform them into champions.

  4. Fondly remembered at Roma
    Getty Images

    Fondly remembered at Roma

    After all, Garcia hasn't won a trophy since making a name for himself by leading Lille to a shock double 12 years ago. However, the importance of his impressive results at Roma should not be overlooked. 

    After rapidly implementing an attractive brand of football which saw the Giallorossi open with ten consecutive Serie A wins, Garcia ended his debut season with 85 points. He was just desperately unfortunate to run into Conte's centurions.

    Roma finished second to Juve again the following year before things began to unravel, with Garcia sacked in January 2016 and, coincidentally, succeeded by Spalletti - the man he is now replacing at Napoli. 

    He remains fondly remembered by Roma fans, though, and not just for his style of play, but also his passionate personality. 

    After a 2-0 victory over Lazio in September 2013 - just four months after a devastating derby defeat in the Coppa Italia final - Garcia proudly declared: "We have put the church back in the centre of the village."

    And when Roma were beaten 3-2 by Juventus in Turin the following year, Garcia made his infamous 'violin' gesture towards referee Gianluca Rocchi, effectively suggesting that when it comes to the Bianconeri, officials are often singing from the same hymn sheet.

    "We were ahead, then Juve scored an equaliser but there was a foul on Medhi Benatia," he told the Corriere dello Sport. "It was an instinctive gesture. I have always defended the clubs that I have trained. 

    "In that case, I couldn't support a great injustice." 

  5. The reasons behind De Laurentiis' decision
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    The reasons behind De Laurentiis' decision

    Such a strong anti-Juve sentiment will obviously go over well in Naples and his past preference for playing a 4-3-3 means there will be no great tactical upheaval, even if Garcia's sides tend to enjoy less possession than those of Spalletti.

    Certainly, formation was a key factor in De Laurentiis' decision, which was also reportedly influenced by a glowing report from the film producer's good friend and noted Roma fan, Carlo Verdone.

    But it's also clear that there was also a human aspect at play, with De Laurentiis saying that it was "a pleasure" to announce Garcia as the new manager "having got to know and spend time with him during the past ten days".

    That really is significant, because it was the collapse of De Laurentiis' relationship with Spalletti that effectively led to his shock departure just days after Napoli's first Scudetto success in 33 years.

  6. 'I thank God that we got Porompompero'
    (C)Getty Images

    'I thank God that we got Porompompero'

    Still, there is simply no getting away from the scale of the task awaiting Garcia, particularly with key centre-back Kim Min-jae set to leave this summer, and incessant speculation surrounding the future of star striker Victor Osimhen.

    So, after the biggest party in Naples in more than three decades, the fans are feeling a little deflated right now. Quite understandably, they felt that the newly-crowned champions of Italy should have been able to attract one of the most highly-rated coaches in Europe. Instead, they have ended up with a name that never even came up during the recent speculation over the next manager at PSG, Chelsea or even Spurs.

    His recent record, then, is undeniably worrying. But it is worth remembering that Garcia reached the Europa League final with Marseille in 2018, and the semi-finals of the Champions League three years ago, beating Manchester City along the way.

    And if Napoli fans are looking for a sliver of encouragement, they should bear in mind that six months after that Google search, De Rossi enthused: "I thank God that we got 'Porompompero'! You can win with someone like him."

    Napoli will need to, of course, and not only for Garcia's sake, but De Laurentiis' too.