Walter Mazzarri, from 2009-13, shaped Napoli into one of the most attacking and attractive sides in Serie A.

But despite the recent successes with the dogged 3-5-2 system, there were calls to refresh things a little bit (the Partenopei began last season with the second highest average age in the league at 28.8) to maintain its competitiveness in both country and continent.

Shrewd signings

The arrival of Rafa Benitez raised concerns as to how the team would adapt to a different style of play.

But some shrewd signings from club owner Aurelio de Laurentiis has allayed at least half of those concerns.

The so-called ‘Rafalution’ began with Napoli breaking four of their nine most expensive transfers ever.

Its most notable signing was Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid for a club record €40m, part of the colossal €64m wisely reinvested from Edinson Cavani’s sale to PSG.

Higuain’s teammate Raul Albiol was the second costliest at €12m.

He will be expected to slot in straight at right back for Hugo Campagnaro (left for Inter).

The Spaniard’s arrival will aid the transition from a defensive back trio to a back four. The experienced Benitez seldom strays from his tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 formation, and here, an all-Swiss defensive midfield will provide much more solidity in the front of the backline (Valon Behrami and playmaker Gokhan Inler).

Slovakian Marek Hamsik will have a similar role to last season as a No. 10 — adept at scoring off either foot, and having no qualms about assisting his teammates, with 11 goals and 14 assists in 38 appearances in 2012-13.

Benitez was quick to solve the dilemma of who was going to flank him.

In came Jose Maria Callejon and Dries Mertens, the third and fourth most expensive players at €10m and €9.5m respectively.

Both could slot either side of Hamsik in a formidable midfield trio.

Italian wonderboy Lorenzo Insigne is a potentially lethal attacking option as an inside left forward, and with Mertens strong on both the wings, the Belgian could get the nod ahead of Callejon.

Vibrant Cabral

After four successful years in Naples, ‘keeper Morgan de Sanctis hands over the gloves to the young and vibrant 23-year-old Rafael Cabral from Santos, thus completing a largely impressive line-up that will be expected to hit the ground running.

Keywords: NapoliSerie A

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