Gazzetta dello Sport's front-page headline catches the mood of the Italian sporting press perfectly: "Thanks Napoli. You tried." There is little will to condemn a team who let slip a two-goal advantage from the first leg, with the majority of reporters instead simply expressing their sadness at the end of a great adventure – with a respectful nod to the Chelsea team who brought it to a close.
"We came for the concert of our Tenors," writes Luigi Garlando in the same newspaper – referencing the Three Tenors nickname given to Napoli's attacking trio of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik. "But theirs sang better so the dreams are over. Napoli's historic arrival in the Champions League quarter-finals – going beyond the epic achievements of Maradona – seemed within touching distance, but disappeared beneath a hailstorm of goals: 4-1, after extra time. What a shame."
All are agreed that the key factor on the night was experience. "Drogba, Terry and Lampard might not have the youthful energy of once upon a time, but they were able to give their team voice for one night of glory," continues Garlando. "You can't buy experience, you earn it on the field." In La Repubblica, Gianni Mura reflects the same viewpoint: "In a year's time, maybe, Napoli will win a contest like this, they will complete the job instead of blowing it."
That is not to say there was no recognition of Napoli's flaws. "Chelsea were too strong, certainly – more expert and used to playing matches as important as this one," writes Alessandro Pasini in Corriere della Sera. "But Napoli were too fragile in defence, where they have suffered tremendously against aerial balls in all their matches in Italy too. Lavezzi – hailed as the new Maradona – was spectacularly absent on the most important night of his career."
The disappointing contributions of Hamsik and Cavani are noted – Garlando adding that "tonight the Tenors had a bad throat" – though the latter got off more lightly than the other two. As Garlando's colleague Nicola Cecere says: "You can't massacre a centre-forward who is breaking up counterattacks in the 102nd minute."
Nevertheless, there is a greater desire to celebrate Napoli than condemn them, with Il Giornale's Marcello Di Dio declaring them as "the true revelations of the tournament" – noting that they had begun the tournament among the fourth seeds for the group stage draw. "And yet they succeeded in giving us five months of sparkling football.
"At least until yesterday evening, when they found a Chelsea team who were not sublime but just starving after a bad season – and who gave them a painful lesson. Almost like Milan at the Emirates a week ago, with the only difference that Milan managed to save their skin. In the end, being used to playing these kinds of matches makes all the difference."
There is praise too, for another Italian – the Chelsea manager, Roberto Di Matteo, credited by Gazzetta dello Sport with "reawakening a sleeping giant" and described by the headline in La Stampa as the "accidental hero" of Chelsea's triumph. "The miracle was left to a Swiss-born man with roots in the Abruzzo," writes the latter's Andrea Malaguti. "A reserved man of 41 years old was called on to keep Great Britain's last representative anchored in the tournament."
While the manager had succeeded, the same reporter is rather less impressed with the club co-ordinated pre-match display of flag waving from the home support. "The spectacle at Stamford Bridge began with the English playing a three-card trick," he writes. "There was nothing real about the choreography in the stadium. Pure theatre … But if the English choreography was made out of papier-mâché the rest was all very real."
Malaguti finds time to praise Napoli's manager, Walter Mazzarri. "He is a god in a black coat … It was he who turned the world on its head, making everyone believe that Naples was better than London. It wasn't true. The materials are different."
In La Repubblica, Maurizio Crosetti reflects on the implications for Serie A as a whole. "Napoli kept their dream alive right to the last moment, then they woke up – as happens in the morning when you need to go to work but would rather stay tucked up beneath the covers," he writes. "Italy finds itself impoverished once again: only Milan left in the Champions League – not coincidentally our best team, as they have been showing in the league.
His colleague Mura, however, does not believe that the result is indicative of the superiority of one nation's approach over another. "English-style football won, but while Italian-style football – that of rapid and devastating counterattacks – is something that Napoli have in their armoury, yesterday they forgot it somewhere," he says. "It will still be there for another time."
Under the front-page headline "Heads held high", Corriere dello Sport's Stefano Agresti strikes an upbeat note. "No, the dream did not finish at Stamford Bridge, in this night full of hopes and regrets, of illusions and delusions. The dream will continue because Napoli have a great present and future – and this cannot and should not be forgotten now that they have gone out of the Champions League in the cruellest way possible, eliminated by Chelsea in extra time after a two-legged tie which they had under control for so long.
"Napoli will continue, because in the league they are flying, because in the Coppa Italia they are within sight of the final, and because all of Europe this season has seen a side which is strong and courageous, organised and marvellous, accompanied and backed everywhere by a fantastic support."