The Theatrical Genius

25 December 2010, Nola (Naples): A darkened cinema room erupts when his name is displayed, “Puort’ aciu o’scuret Preside!” (Bring us the trophy Mr. President!). Aurelio De Laurentiis is the name on the screen. In Naples, no one else could possibly receive this sort of a reaction, not even San Gennaro himself.

Aurelio de Laurentiis

It is the enigma that is de Laurentiis that has had everyone in Naples dreaming. Direct, vocal, nonchalant, ambitious and astute, he is as my cousin calls him “the dream maker”. A title, which to some would be a burden, but to this man it is just another stage for his natural theatrics to shine. If Maradona needed a stage, and the San Paolo was such, then de Laurentiis has become the most recognisable orchestrator since El Pibe left the city in the early 90’s.

Born in 1949 to a family of film moguls, de Laurentiis’ future was always going to be in the entertainment industry. His most recent film guises have been chart successes across theatres around Italy, even if the quality is comparable to the Carry On films of the 1970’s in the UK. His passion for his home team, Napoli however never dwindled.

In 2004, when Napoli were relegated to Serie C1, he entered the frame as a self-proclaimed saviour of the club and began by transforming the future of the Partenopei. He invested wisely in staff; Pier-Paolo Marino became the architect of the market place being appointed as the Director of Sport. His coaches were to have control on and off the pitch of the players. He got the public behind the squad by providing results on the pitch, and starting community based organisations in and around Naples. When they were promoted to Serie B in 2006, and faced the likes of Juventus, “the San Paolo had a magical air that engrossed the fans, ball boys, players and staff” giving the 70,000 capacity stadium full attendance. It seemed the fans and the President knew all that was left was to get SSC Napoli back into the top flight. “De Laurentiis, brought order to the chaos that is Naples” was what a fan famously quoted after their return to the top flight in the 2007-2008 season.

But it is the way that he has brought order that has Italian journalists and the neutrals excited enough to see what is going to come next from the impassioned president.

He dismissed the popular Edy Reja after two seasons for not achieving what he thought Naples could with the squad he had at his disposal. He gave Roberto Donandoni little to no time after a poor start to the 2009-2010 campaign, and his most recent coach, Walter Mazzari has nearly felt the full right swing of De Laurentiis when courting The Old Lady for a job on the bench. “Mazzari goes nowhere!” de Laurentiis thundered on Sky Italia.

De Laurentiis also takes no prisoners when it comes to his players. With Marek Hamsik this summer he said “Marek is worth at least €50million, that’s right €50million. If Milan wants him, they have to first ring me and ask nicely, and even then I’d say no!” Ezequiel Lavezzi was next on his list when Inter got cosy. Apparently, in a beach side meeting with the player and his agent, de Laurentiis threatened the player that he would sit the remainder of his 3 year contract on the bench. Lavezzi responded by training alone in Sardinia until realising that as of yet, he isn’t going anywhere.

And if you missed the debacle regarding the calendar fixtures for this year, well, in this writer’s opinion, you missed a treat. After seeing the calendar and the ties with Milan, Inter and Juve respectively, and the European calendar that all coincides with these fixtures, live on TV, de Laurentiis went….totally berserk! In his tirade , live on TV, he called the football association an a bunch of d*ck headsand a bunch of sh*ts. He didn’t stop there. When a fellow President tried to calm him down, de Laurentiis spat out his disgust, “I am fed up and I have had enough. I want to go back to making films”.

His ire was with the association who had made the draw. In his anger he burst out for, “being an Italian citizen” and “only in Italy can people get away with what THEY are doing”. “They” of course are his favourite friends, Silvio Berlusconi, the President of Italy and AC Milan, and the FIGC. He felt, and some say, strongly that the teams playing in European competitions weren’t being ‘protected’ enough in the domestic and international games.

It got to a stage when de Laurentiis stormed out midway from the fixture determination meeting and in perfect de Laurentiis style, when he couldn’t find his driver after being pursued by journalists, he did what any shy and retiring football president would do: flag down a scooter driver, jump on the back and go to wherever that person was going, just to get away from it all. It was almost like Audrey Hepburn behind Gregory Peck sans all the mush.

This summer’s unveiling of new players has been theatrical in their own ways. Gokhan Inler was presented in de Laurentiis’ private yacht with a lion’s mask on his face while Goran Pandev was blessed in front of a packed stadium. This is the essence of Aurelio de Laurentiis, a director in every sense.

The unveiling of Gokhan Inler

His summer warm up game against Barcelona clearly showed that Napoli has a long way to go. A humiliating defeat (5 – 0) to the Blaugrana however didn’t infuriate him, it made him even more convinced that Europe is where Napoli should live, in amongst the “big boys” and one day, bring back European honour to the city. Their Champions league draw in the ‘group of death’ may be a little hard this year, but Napoli have the right attitude to start their march to the top of Europe again.

Call him passionate, mad, a master of the masquerade, Aurelio De Laurentiis’ vision for Napoli is to create the new Barcelona. Investment at youth and senior levels are needed, and a little more humility by everyone is a must, but maybe and just maybe, the “dream-maker” might just be able to do it.

Gino de Blasio studiously analyzes Italian and English football. He has recently become a qualified coach and talks tactics until the cows come home. You can follow him on twitter @ginodb

About Gino de Blasio

Gino de Blasio studiously analyses Italian and English football. He has recently become a qualified coach and talks tactics until the cows come home. You can follow him on twitter @ginodb