Napoli have been one of the teams of 2017.
Maurizio Sarri’s philosophy has seen the Neapolitan team produce arguably the most attractive football in Europe and this season they represent the biggest threat to Juventus’ stranglehold over Italian football in years.
Pep Guardiola said in November: “They are perhaps the best side I’ve faced in my career… I am in love with Napoli.”
And there’s something rather unusual, yet endearing, about Napoli’s first-choice XI.
None of their regular starters cost more than €17million.
Sarri’s favoured front three of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon cost the club a club total of €19.5m.
The most expensive signings of the starting line-up are Brazilian midfielder Allan and veteran centre-back Raul Albiol, who arrived in Naples for €17m and €12m respectively.
The aforementioned Mertens is the only preferred starter who cost €10m+.
Bizarrely, this means that Napoli’s back-up XI actually costs €56.5m more than their first-choice team-mates.
Arkadiusz Milik makes up €33m of the second-choice XI’s total.
The Polish forward was signed from Ajax in 2016 as Gonzalo Higuain’s replacement but tore his anterior cruciate ligament in October of last year — an injury that sidelined him for six months.
Upon his return he soon suffered the same injury in his other knee, ruling him out for a further four months.
In his absence, Mertens deputised in the centre-forward role and surprised everyone with his clinical finishing.
The Belgian international finished last season with 34 goals from 45 games and was a worthy nominee for the Ballon d’Or.
Centre-back Nikola Maksimovic was signed permanently for €28 in the summer of 2017 after a spell on loan last campaign.
The 26-year-old Serbian is yet to oust Albiol or the highly-rated Kalidou Koulibaly from Sarri’s ideal starting line-up.
How about that then?
Proof that you don’t have to spend big to be a title contender.