'What a signing': £9m man already showing Tottenham what they're missing
Kvicha Kvaratskhelia had big boots to fill when he joined Napoli this summer. Not literally of course, given Lorenzo Insigne’s 5ft 3ins, knee-high-to-a-grasshopper frame.
But what Insigne lacks in size, he more than made up for in stature at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Napoli’s captain, their second-highest all-time goalscorer to boot and a bonafide Naples icon; How on earth could Kvaratskhelia, joining after a rather middling second season at Rubin Kazan, step into the shoes of such an iconic player, with one of the most demanding and passionate fanbases in Europe breathing down his neck?
Well, a dazzling debut performance like the one Kvaratskhelia produced in Napoli’s 5-2 victory over Hellas Verona on Monday evening was about as good a start as the Georgia international could have hoped to wish for.
It took Kvaratskhelia – compared to Mo Salah by Fabio Capello during a promising pre-season – just 37 minutes to open his account in Serie A; Bulletting home a far post header. The 21-year-old left-winger then showcased his vision too, setting up Piotr Zielinski’s goal with a superb first-time through ball.
Kvicha Kvaratskhelia shines on Serie A debut for Napoli
“Kvaratskhelia was too naive sometimes,” says Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti; Refusing to get too carried away while expressing his excitement about a player who could hardly have made a better first impression.
“But he is a complete player with good technique. He scored an amazing goal, a header; Not his best quality. He can do even better!”
“I like Kvaratskhelia very much,” adds Inter Milan legend Andrea Mandorlini (TMW). “Congratulations to Napoli. He made a great impression on me. He has personality, he’s good at one-on-one and he scored. It is a great signing.”
A great signing maybe, but a surprise one too. Kvaratskhelia was not supposed to end up in the South of Italy; If Fabio Paratici had his way, the winger would have left Russia either for Juventus or Tottenham Hotspur instead.
“Khvicha had a preliminary contract with Juventus,” explains his agent. “But the club’s sporting director Fabio Paratici left. If Fabio hadn’t left Juventus, Khvicha would have moved there.
“After Paratici left for Tottenham, they wanted to sign Kvicha on loan but we did not agree. The player himself was against the loan.”
The Georgian Mo Salah, the new Insigne; Whatever you want to call him, Kvaratskhelia is quickly making a name for himself in his own right.
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