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Big game in the Italian Serie A on the cards this weekend as joint league leaders Juventus and Napoli square off in the battle to first. Many, including myself, are quite surprised with how strong Napoli have started off their Serie A campaign this season especially after losing one of their best players, Ezequiel Lavezzi, over the summer and not going into the transfer market to find a replacement.
Someone had to fill the big shoes in the starting XI left after Lavezzi’s departure to PSG (same club now linked to be interested in making a move for Lavezzi’s replacement).
Enter Lorenzo Insigne.
….Let’s get to know a bit about the man first.
2006–now: Napoli (2006-09 youth career)
2009–10: Cavese (loan) (Serie C1)
2010–11: Foggia (loan) (Serie C1)
2011–12: Pescara (loan) (Serie B)
If you are reading this, I bet about 99% of you probably never heard the name Lorenzo Insigne before this season. No need to feel ashamed, I didn’t know much about him either other than he was a bright prospect for the future in Walter Mazzarri’s squad. But, many Serie A experts and diehard supporters, fellow Italian players, and Napoli supporters, they knew Lorenzo Insigne was not only the man to fill in for Lavezzi and be a better player than his predecessor, but also one of the biggest talents for the future of Italian footballer.
With him being at 5’4”, Napoli fans haven’t been this excited over a small-sized footballer since the likes of Diego Maradona and Gianfranco Zola were wearing the Napoli sky blue shirts.
Some Napoli supporters already compare his style of play to the likes of Lionel Messi and call him his “twin”. I can see why they compare him to the Barcelona superstar.
￼Insigne is a very gifted footballer with great technical skill and a smart football brain, which some experts say Lavezzi lacked. When watching him play, Insigne is a player who puts his stamp on the game with the swagger and flair that he possesses. He’s a player with loads of pace and great acceleration on and off the ball and a fabulous dribbler that is able to beat defenders with either trickery or pace. He has tremendous balance and control, which is a defender’s worst nightmare when you combine that with his pace and dribbling abilities.
He is also a confident and clinical finisher. Because of his confidence, he’s never afraid to take a shot on goal no matter the distance or area of difficulty. He is also an underrated playmaker and creates many chances for his teammates as shown during his loan spells. He has a tremendous work-rate on the attack and is one of those players that tracks back and helps defend when it’s needed.
Before he could make his mark on the Serie A, Insigne had to test himself in more shallow waters with loan moves to lower Italian divisions over the past 3 seasons. And under the tutelage of well-known Czech coach Zdeněk Zeman, Insigne blossomed during those three years.
Last season was a coming-of-age season for Lorenzo Insigne as he spent time on loan at Serie B club Pescara. He took the Serie B by storm as he accumulated a total of 18 goals and had 14 assists in the Italian second division and was the catalyst that helped Pescara gain promotion in the Serie A. Last year was Insigne’s test to see if he was ready for first team football in Serie A and to take Lavezzi’s place in the Napoli squad. And he passed with flying colors grabbing a chokehold of Serie B with relative ease.
In his first season play for Napoli in the Serie A, Insigne is already impressing many pundits with his performances for Walter Mazzarri’s side. His play so far this season has already earned him his first call up to the Italian National Team, where he got his first international cap in September. Now, more people around the football world have taken notice to Insigne as a future star and a vital player for Italy in the near future.
Even though supporters compare him to Messi, another player comes to Insigne’s mind as the player he is trying to emulate. That man is no other than his idol and Juve legend, Alessandro Del Piero.
When talking about Del Piero in an interview, Insigne said, “I look up to him [Del Piero]. As a kid, I watched all of his goals and I’d love to ‘steal’ his curling shots.”
After hearing Insigne’s words, the new Sydney FC star [Del Piero] showed great class and humility by calling the young Neapolitan star and congratulating him on his National team call-up and giving him praise on how good of a footballer he is. A true sign of class from one of the most humble players to have graced a football pitch.
Insigne has received praise throughout the football world. Napoli and Italian NT teammate, Christian Maggio, has been hugely impressed by Insigne’s class and quality and has stated that Insigne is better than former teammate, Ezequiel Lavezzi. Another Napoli teammate, Goran Pandev, has also stated that Insigne’s playing style reminds him of Messi. Pandev stated:
“He’s a great guy. In terms of his dribbling, he reminds me of Messi, who is the best in the world, and Insigne has the chance to emulate the career of the Barcelona phenomenon.”
Even though he has been getting a lot of praise, the young Napoli striker is making sure to remain level-headed and not getting ahead of himself by telling La Repubblica:
“I thank Goran for comparing me to Messi, but let’s not exaggerate. It is better to avoid such comparisons. Messi is extraordinary, even if personally I still think the greatest player who ever lived was Diego Maradona.”
And in recent rumors, it seems that Carlo Ancelotti is interested in bringing Insigne to PSG possibly this January. But due to Insigne being a life-long Napoli supporter, he has refuted to any claims of him leaving by stating:
“I have always supported this club [Napoli] and would like to one day become a symbol of Napoli.”
￼Lorenzo Insigne is a very talented and gifted footballer that lacks a big ego that would get him carried away with all the praise he has received in the past two months. A lot of expectations have been put on him by fellow club supporters with the comparisons to Messi and seeing him as being their new Maradona or Zola and helping Napoli lift their first Serie A title since 1990. But, if anyone can handle these expectations, that person is young Lorenzo Insigne.
As the new-and-improved successor to Ezequiel Lavezzi, Insigne will have a chance to shine as one of the three members of Napoli’s attacking three-headed monster consisting of Marek Hamsik, Edinson Cavani, and himself. With the help of Hamsik and Cavani, they both will take a lot of the pressure away from Insigne to perform right away. With these two right by the young Italian striker’s side, Lorenzo Insigne can blossom into the player the everyone is expecting to be.
A big test for Napoli this weekend as they visit current champions Juventus, whose only lose in the last in over the last year has come to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final. A result this weekend will guarantee Napoli as the biggest threat to Juve for the Scudetto this season.
Whether he starts or not, expect Lorenzo Insigne to get the opportunity to make a statement to the rest of Italy and the football world that his time has come.
Written by Khalid Khan
Follow him on twitter @KHALIDKhan91
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