Napoli has what feels like a new man this season in Lorenzo Insigne, one of the most exciting and most valuable players (€70m valuation in today’s market) in Italian football in recent times.
Fans were apprehensive this summer as speculation surrounding his exit from the Naples club filled the media in the latter stages of the 2018/19 season, with the player himself casting doubt over his future at the club after he was appointed captain following the departure of Marek Hamsik to China in February 2019.
He was reported by the media as being irritated by the second-placed finish by Napoli for the second straight season, as well as making statements to Corriere dello Sport that cast his future at the club in doubt. However, he stayed with the club and has also reaffirmed his decision to do all in his power to propel Napoli to glory this season.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti will be happy with the renewed vigour of Insigne, who he deployed in a more central position last season and has now given the license to roam freely to add a little more bite to the attack.
Since breaking into Napoli’s team in 2013/14 after three different loan spells, he has managed an average of a goal every 45 minutes which places him among the best attackers in the Serie A. He is a left-winger who likes to drift into spaces and play through balls for his teammates, and will always be expected to play a long ball into the box. He also possesses playmaking capabilities like that of an attacking midfielder and a powerful shot which he is not afraid to unleash when he sights the goal, making him one of the most feared distance shooters in Italy. All of these attributes have earned him several comparisons to Lionel Messi, which is a great honour for any footballer.
However, his tactical attribute is not his strongest point and this is seen clearly in his tackles and duels success rate (60% success rate). His crossing has never been the best whenever he comes from the wings, but he makes up for this with his ability to hold up play, allowing his teammates find spaces which he can exploit with a through ball or a long ball whenever Napoli wins the ball back. He is also caught offside a lot, an attribute of direct attacking players who like to push defences to their limit. His small frame (163cm in height) also reduces his aerial threat, despite him being a good header of the ball.
He has hit the ground running this season with two goals and two assists in the 4-3 comeback victory over Fiorentina on match week one, all made possible by his free-roaming license given him by Ancelotti. With a great supporting cast in Jose Callejon (his vice-captain), Dries Mertens, Fabian Ruiz and now Hirving Lozano, he can do a lot of damage to defences in the Serie A this season and could see his average performance rating go up from 7.40 – which is still pretty high – into elite levels of 7.50 and above.
This change in Il Magnifico’s (as he is fondly called) game has been noted by former coach Maurizio Sarri as well, who, while in charge of Chelsea in the English Premier League last season, stated his belief that Serie A will witness a brand-new Lorenzo Insigne under the tutelage of Ancelotti. Now that he is captain, the 28-year old will be even more determined to prove his leadership skills in the Serie A following his comments about being irritated with two consecutive second-place finishes.
If things go on like this, Insigne will be the vital clog in the engine that finally propels the Naples club to their third ever Scudetto and he will be to Napoli what Francesco Totti is to Rome, providing the locals of Naples with a homegrown hero to adore alongside their best ever player, the Argentine Diego Maradona.