A 1-1 draw at Udinese gave Napoli the point they needed for their first league title since 1990.
Napoli finally ended their long wait to win Serie A, joining the late club icon Diego Maradona in the history books by being crowned Italian champions with a record five games to play.
A 1-1 draw against Udinese on Thursday gave Napoli the point they needed to end a 33-year wait that sparked wild celebrations among the thousands of fans in Udine, at Naples’ Stadio Maradona and everywhere in the largest city in southern Italy.
Supporters poured onto the pitch at the Dacia Arena to celebrate after a season dominated by Luciano Spalletti’s side, creating moments of tension with home fans unhappy about such an open celebration on their ground.
Victor Osimhen scored the decisive goal in the second half as Napoli’s current stars came back from behind to Sandi Lovric’s half-time opener and the teams followed suit led by Maradona, who won the league in 1987 and 1990.
“To be compared to him, to be the captain after Maradona to lift the Scudetto, I just have no words,” said skipper Giovanni Di Lorenzo. “This is not my title, it belongs to every player and the people who worked to make our dream come true.”
Spalletti and his side will receive an emotional welcome when they return to Naples, where the city-wide celebration will continue at least until their next home game against Fiorentina on Sunday night.
“Seeing Neapolitans happy is enough to make you feel the joy they feel,” Spalletti told DAZN on the verge of tears.
“These people will be looking forward to this moment when life gets tough, they have every right to celebrate this way. You feel a little more relaxed knowing that you gave them this moment of happiness.
It was fitting that Osimhen was the man to pull Napoli over the line as the Nigeria striker has had the best season of his career and was key to Napoli’s historic run for victory.
Osimhen’s title-deciding goal was his 22nd goal in 28 league matches and rightly caused a stir among the massive away supporters who took over Udine.
Napoli’s 16-point lead over second-placed Lazio leaves them with a month-long parade between now and the end of the season, allowing their long-suffering supporters to fully discharge more than a generation of frustration.
Spalletti said Diego Maradona was watching over Napoli and helping his former club finally secure a Serie A title.
Maradona, who died in 2020, is regarded by many as the greatest footballer ever and he spent his peak years at Napoli, winning two league titles and the 1989 UEFA Cup.
Tributes to Maradona can be found all over Naples and he is regarded as a patron saint by a football-mad city whose team had never reached the same heights since his departure in 1991.
It is the first Italian league title in Spalletti’s long and eventful coaching career, and the charismatic Tuscan was almost overcome with emotion as he can no longer be regarded as the leading man in Italian football.
“Yes! We are the champions,” supporter Roberto Santoniello told Reuters TV, proudly wearing his club’s shirt as others shouted, waved flags, lit torches and fired firecrackers in the main square of Trieste and Trento in Naples.
The police had banned fireworks, but that did not prevent the Neapolitan sky from lighting up once the game against Udinese was over. Authorities have also banned car and scooter traffic from the city center in hopes of minimizing the risk to public order.
“I’ve been waiting for the Napoli Scudetto since I was little,” said a teenage girl with two friends, her cheeks painted Napoli blue. “It’s a win for the whole city, it’s great,” she added, refusing to give her name.