The 1990-91 season will always be memorable for us, it being a first proper exposure to football in the wake Italia 90.
A weekly diet of Shoot! magazine helped to feed the thirst for knowledge and information and the various ads for mail-order shirt distributors hot-housed the interest in kits.
When we saw the above in 1991, it perplexed us. As you can see, number 13 is the Napoli home but there is another blue and white shirt too, number 11, which is described as the ‘away’. The white (7) is the ‘change’ – which, strictly speaking it was – and the red (6) is truistically called ‘red’.
We thought for a few years that they were like Portsmouth in the 2003-04 Premier League, when they had a navy kit worn in every away game, but later received an answer that the kit with the white swirls was for cup games, domestically and in the European Cup. Examining their games one by one, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case either.
The shirt with the greater amount of white – which we’ll call the alternative home – actually looked to be the first-choice kit early in the season. It was worn as they beat Juventus 5-1 in the Supercoppa in August and then, after the away kit was worn against Lecce in the league opener, also saw action in the losses at home to Cagliari and at home to Parma. Whether it was a bid to change fortunes or something else, the ‘plainer’ blue was used at home to Pisa, where Napoli won, and the alternative wasn’t seen again in the league.
With the Scudetto on their chest for the second – and last, as it stands – time, Napoli’s crest was on the left sleeve and the three shirts had the ‘nr’ logo repeating through the fabric, giving a shadow effect. The alternative, or ‘cup’ shirt, was paired with blue shorts against Hungarian champions Újpesti Dózsa in the European Cup, while all-white was used away to Inter in the league.
Away to Atalanta two weeks later, the dark red third kit, similar in style to the alternative blue shirt, was worn, despite the home side having the same colours as Inter. This didn’t have the ‘nr’ in the fabric and was only provided in long-sleeved format, though some players cut theirs.
Napoli exited Europe on penalties against Spartak Moscow after two goalless draws. At home, the cup kit was used but, for some reason, the game in Russia saw the plain blue shirt paired with blue shorts for the only time all season.
Away to Pisa – another blue-and-black-striped side – the red kit had white socks. This game was notable for Diego Maradona wearing 9 with his anointed successor, Gianfranco Zola, wearing 10. The red shirt appeared against Sampdoria too, but with blue shorts and white socks.
Perhaps Napoli hoped to wear their away kit and only brought the third jerseys as a contingency? Ten days later, they were away to the champions-elect in the semi-final of the Coppa Italia and wore all-white, but a 1-0 first-leg lead (with the normal home kit worn) was overturned as they lost 2-0. It extinguished their only chance of silverware as, shorn of the services of Maradona following a drugs ban, their title defence didn’t amount to much and they eventually finished eighth.
That summer, everything changed. Maradona was gone, Umbro replaced Ennerre and food company Voiello had their name on the front of the shirts instead of Mars.