Napoli fire head coach, Mazzarri, ahead of UCL Barcelona clash

Napoli has fired Walter Mazzarri, making him the second manager to be fired by the struggling Italian champions this season, Italian media reported on Monday.

The 62-year-old took over in November when Rudi Garcia was fired, but Napoli has since slumped to ninth place in Serie A, ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 match against Barcelona.

Francesco Calzona, Slovakia’s national team coach, is scheduled to stay until the end of the season and will be in charge of the opening leg against Barcelona.

Calzona led Slovakia to Euro 2024, but he faces a daunting task when he returns to Napoli, where he was an assistant during Luciano Spalletti’s trophyless first season.

Calzona is expected to stay in Slovakia and will be joined by Marek Hamsik, Napoli’s all-time appearance maker and the first man to break Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.

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Napoli won a historic third Scudetto last season, but since title-winning coach Spalletti stepped down during the offseason, chaos has reigned in Naples.

Napoli trail league leaders Inter Milan by 27 points after winning only four of 12 league games under Mazzarri, totaling 15 points.

That is even fewer than Garcia’s 21 from 12 league games in charge, which put Napoli fourth before the Frenchman was fired.

Even if Italy finishes fifth, Napoli’s chances of returning to the top four and competing in next season’s restructured Champions League remain remote.

Napoli is nine points behind fourth-placed Atalanta and fifth-placed Bologna, and has shown no evidence of closing the deficit, failing to score in nine of Mazzarri’s matches across all competitions.

It’s a terrible finish to Mazzarri’s brief second term in command of Napoli, after he helped restore southern Italy’s greatest club to the first tier of Italian football between 2009 and 2013.

Mazzarri led Napoli to the 2012 Italian Cup, defeating unbeaten league champions Juventus in the final to claim the club’s first trophy in over two decades.

He left in May 2013 after finishing second in Italy’s top division with an exciting team that had Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsík, and Edinson Cavani in attack.

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