Napoli have sustained an admirable title challenge in Serie A this season with a relatively small squad.
Unlike Max Allegri’s Juventus, they are not blessed with a seemingly endless mine of talent. The Partenopei do, however, have a settled starting XI.
Given the relentless consistency with which Napoli have performed this season, it’s inevitable that some players have been left on the periphery of the team. They will need to impress coach Maurizio Sarri if they are to have a future at the club.
4. Mario Rui
When Faouzi Ghoulam suffered a cruciate ligament injury in November, it was considered a significant blow to Napoli’s title hopes.
Mario Rui has been tasked with deputising for the Algerian left back, and he has done so commendably. Still, he will be aware that there is more work to do to stake a claim for a regular place next season.
Ghoulam will likely be back to full fitness, so Rui must use the final weeks of the campaign to further impress Sarri.
“His initial difficulties weren’t because of him not being at Ghoulam’s level. Mario feels just as good, second to no-one,” said the Portuguese full back’s agent, Mario Giuffredi, last month.
“However, there was general scepticism from the Press and fans, who didn’t consider him good enough. Overcoming that wasn’t easy.”
3. Vlad Chiriches
Vlad Chiriches had a promising start to life in Naples following his switch from Tottenham in 2015. He struggled at Spurs, but it initially seemed he had found a home in Serie A.
But early promise has been replaced by stagnation and frustration. Chiriches has played only six times in Serie A this season, kept out of the team by the dependable defensive duo of Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol.
Though he signed a new contract earlier this month, the 28-year-old is unlikely to be content with the minimal role he is currently playing. Chiriches now faces the challenge of breaking into the team and impressing enough to warrant more frequent opportunities.
2. Arkadiusz Milik
Through no fault of his own, Arkadiusz Milik has been unable to make a significant impact at Napoli since his €34m arrival from Ajax in 2016.
He was prolific with the Dutch side but incessant injury problems have hindered his progress with Napoli and he has been restricted to only one league start this season.
Sarri originally intended to use Milik as the focal point of his attack, but the Polish striker’s fitness problems meant that he was forced to improvise, and Dries Mertens was utilised as a false nine. There the Belgian has excelled, ending last season with 28 Serie A goals.
Breaking back into the team will not be easy for Milik. But he is, for now, injury free, and has the final weeks of the season to prove himself.
1. Adam Ounas
At just 21-years-old, there is likely far more to come from winger Adam Ounas. The Algerian international was signed from Bordeaux in the summer after two impressive seasons in Ligue 1.
But his lack of game time this season has been noticeable. He is yet to start a game in Serie A – perhaps because of the form of Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon – and has made just 12 appearances in all competitions.
It may be that Sarri is simply attempting to introduce him slowly. Ounas will be aware, though, that competition is always going to be tough for a spot in Napoli’s attack.