Napoli go into the 2022 World Cup break in the enviable position of sitting a huge eight points clear at the top of the Serie A table, and attackers Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have earned the plaudits. However, the Partenopei also have full-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo to thank for their lofty position.
The Italy international has been a mainstay in the team since joining from Empoli in 2019 and is finally earning the success his consistency at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona deserves, as Luciano Spalletti‘s side cement their position at Scudetto favourites.
Consistent for club and country
Di Lorenzo has staked a claim to be the most underrated Italian footballer since Antonio Di Natale, with the vast majority of his 158 appearances for Napoli going under the radar.
Yet, the 29-year-old has established himself as the model of consistency, and his ability to launch attacks from full-back, whilst remaining disciplined in his defensive duties, have proved pivotal to the Partenopei’s exciting brand of football.
The former Reggina defender was initially signed to add depth to Napoli’s squad and serve as a back-up to Faouzi Ghoulam, but his irrepressible form made him a starter under Carlo Ancelotti, Gennaro Gattuso, and now Spalletti.
It is a similar story on the international stage, with Di Lorenzo now firmly established as the Azzurri’s first-choice right-back.
He has won 24 caps for Italy and scored in the most recent international fixture, a 3-1 win over Albania on Wednesday.
It may be little more than a coincidence, but his absence through injury came as Roberto Mancini‘s side were stunned in a World Cup play-off defeat against North Macedonia in March, costing the European champions a place on the biggest stage.
Versatile and ever-present
Di Lorenzo has proven himself to be the perfect player for a long and arduous season, with the Tuscan versatile across the defence and into midfield.
Able to slot in seamlessly on the left and at centre-back, in addition to his natural right-back role, Napoli have been able to rely on their defensive stalwart to cover any void, whilst his fitness levels mean he is rarely not on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, and plays almost every match.
Indeed, Di Lorenzo has only missed eight Serie A matches in the past four seasons since arriving at Napoli, highlighting his importance to the club.
Napoli underwent something of an overhaul this summer, with local hero and club captain Lorenzo Insigne departing for Toronto FC, and fellow figurehead Kalidou Koulibaly sold to Chelsea.
In need of a leader to unite the team, Spalletti turned to Di Lorenzo and the full-back has thrived under the responsibility, showing the fortitude and strength of personality to handle a demanding Neapolitan crowd.
Taking over from a fan favourite in Insigne was no easy task, but Di Lorenzo has transitioned into the role effortlessly and is on course to be the first Napoli captain to lift the Scudetto since a certain Diego Maradona in 1990.