Schmuck of the Week: Boomer watch in Italy

Here we have a tale ripe for the current “OK Boomer” moment we find ourselves in. 

An old, surly and impatient chairman demands his team to go on a week-long retreat in the team’s practice facility to improve performance. An archaic practice in Italian football known as ritiro, this practice calls for players to remain entrapped in the team’s practice facility for a week with no outside media presence to boost team performance. This chairman has a business interest in the club, but he knows little of football: He’s spent his life as a film director.  

But the players, the human beings that they are, refused and were subsequently fined a tally that cumulatively totals over 2.5 million euros, the maximum possible amount. 

So who are the actors? The players of S.S.C. Napoli, languishing in 7th place in the Italian Serie A and without a win in their previous five league games, against overlord and club chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis, the proponent of the ritiro. But why would De Laurentiis be driven to this as an ultimatum? 

In all fairness to him, Napoli should have won Serie A at some point under its current Insigne-Mertens-Koulibaly generation. Per expected goals data, which factor in a team’s likely goal tally per the quality of a team’s shots, Napoli has had a higher expected points tally than evil-empire Juventus (league winner eight times in a row) in three of the past four seasons, yet for what? Napoli has no Scudetto (the Italian’s winner medal), no Supercoppa Italia trophy (or even a finals appearance) and got humbled by Real Madrid in its only appearance out of the Champions League Group Stage. When, De Laurentiis, who might be Vito Corleone in disguise, must ponder, is this team going to achieve anything tangible?

It certainly cannot be easy for the players when there’s an ambitious chairman itching for the current crop of players he’s heavily invested in to translate performance into trophies. But when Juventus spends 219 million euros on its wage bill compared to Napoli’s figure of 94, perhaps the scale of expectations should properly reflect such an imbalance. Sure, Napoli has been well off of its usual standard this season, sitting 17 points off the top through just 14 matches. Expected points paint a rosier picture, having them under six points behind leaders Inter and Juventus

But De Laurentiis cares not for your analytics but simply carrying out winning in his way. Ritiros are surprisingly more common than one would expect in Italian football, but when even Napoli’s decorated and former Champions-League-winning coach Carlo Ancelotti is expressing a tepidness toward the decision, it becomes more puzzling. 

“It’s a chance for the team to get to know each other better,” De Laurentiis said, thinking he knows what he’s doing. “We have kept hitting the woodworks,” Ancelotti contorts (Napoli’s 10 crossbars lead the league), likely having a tighter grasp than the chairman. All of the players are upset, especially midfielder Eljif Elmas, who was reprimanded for speaking to the media in his native Macedonia when he was away on international duty.

It’s the same story you keep hearing on the news: boomer thinks they know how to handle something they’re not qualified to handle, while everyone else in the organization thinks differently. To De Laurentiis, I contort: OK Boomer, you schmuck.