Napoli playmaker Lorenzo Insigne is swiftly growing in stature and importance as a major part of Maurizio Sarri’s dynamic attacking game-plan.
The Versuviani began 2016 sat comfortably in third spot in Serie A, whilst boasting one of the best goalscoring records in the division.
Much of that success can be attributed to the tireless probing produced by Naples native Insigne, who was responsible – via a combination of assists and strikes of his own – for over one-third of his team’s goals by the winter break.
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Meanwhile, colleagues including Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik have dovetailed with the 24-year-old starlet to such a degree that Napoli can rightly claim to be one of the most exciting sides presently operating within Serie A.
Severe injury troubles stunted Insigne’s development in the past, but he now appears capable of emulating Napoli icon Diego Maradona in leading the Partenopei to another long-awaited Scudetto.
AMBITIONS ON HOLD
Insigne showed promise when breaking into the Napoli first team in 2012, following which he struck eight times in Serie A action and created 13 further goals over a two-season spell.
However, a cruciate ligament injury suffered in November 2014 stalled his rapid ascent and saw him miss five-and-a-half months’ worth of football.
He subsequently struggled to convince previous coach Rafa Benitez of his ability to become chief playmaker for the southern outfit on his return, but that situation changed dramatically after new boss Maurizio Sarri strode through the San Paolo doors.
Initially utilised as a trequartista - roaming behind a front two - Insigne later found himself featuring at the left of a three-man forward line, which has offered him a large amount of flexibility with which to interpret his role.
Key to the success of both positions has been coach Sarri’s allowance for Insigne to locate pockets of space wherever he may find them, whether on the left or centrally, and it has paid great dividends.
NEW LEASE OF LIFE
That freedom of expression has led to a series of sparkling performances from a fully-fit Insigne, not least in the recent January win over Torino that welcomed in the new year.
A sumptuous lob from outside of the area from the little man handed Napoli the lead, before being pegged back by a Fabio Quagliarella penalty.
Undaunted, he then set up Marek Hamsik with a delightful through-ball from the left-hand side to put the Azzurri back in charge - an advantage they didn’t relinquish.
The creativity, ingenuity and poise displayed by hometown hero Insigne during both attacking moves brought memories flooding back of the halcyon days enjoyed with Maradona in their ranks.
Comparisons are easy to make; their shared diminutive stature, stocky build and low centre of gravity all bear striking similarities that simply cannot be ignored.
There is even a passing resemblance in looks between the pair that could have Napoli supporters of a certain age fooled into believing it is the late 1980s all over again.
Insigne is one of those fantastical footballers who possess the talent to turn a game on a moment of magic, which is a skill seen all-too-rarely in the modern day.
As long as his fitness worries prove to be entirely behind him in the long run, then the Naples-born visionary can look forward to a hugely successful career – and perhaps a feted slot alongside Maradona in the pantheon of Napoli greats.
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