STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Ok, be honest. Who really saw this coming? Without doubt, there was excitement about Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s arrival in Serie A at Napoli.
But the 21-year-old wasn’t a player many Italian football fans would’ve seen a lot of before he landed in Campania, unless they had a habit of tuning into the Russian or Georgian leagues in their spare time.
Kvara’s talent had certainly earned him a reputation among those in the know, resulting in a ripple of curiosity and anticipation about what he could do in Italy.
Surely even his biggest champions didn’t see this coming, though.
Kvaratskhelia needed about a week to pick up the nickname ‘Kvaradona’, after producing three goals and an assist in his first two games.
Kvaratskhelia’s record-breaking debut Serie A season with Napoli
His rate of productivity is obviously eye catching, with his goal against Lazio – as the Partenopei won 2-1 – making it four in five now.
But it’s the other things that tempt you to believe that he could be on course to have one of the greatest debut Serie A seasons.
The way Kvaratskhelia moves and manipulates space points to an intelligence beyond his years, while the confidence he has demonstrated at this level suggests he is only going to get better.
It’s scary, for non-Napoli fans at least, to think that this is the forward’s adaptation period.
He’s still learning the tactics, settling in with his teammates, getting to grips with the language and experiencing Serie A’s eclectic array of opponents and stadiums for the first time.
Nevertheless, Opta pointed out during the Lazio game that the five goals Kvaratskhelia has been involved in (four scored, one assisted) in his first four starts is the most ever by a Napoli player since they returned to Serie A in 2007.
And he cost a reported €10m. It could prove to be one of the best pieces of business the club has ever done at this rate.
Kvaratskhelia has Napoli fans forgetting Insigne
Lorenzo Insigne is already a fading memory for Partenopei fans. Their new, dynamic team is coming together nicely in the early weeks of the season. The first-choice side, at least.
Wednesday’s draw with Lecce showed that the rotated midweek selection can’t be counted on quite yet, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by the newly promoted side after making six changes.
Luciano Spalletti will have to rotate effectively, with the Champions League starting next week with the visit of Liverpool – a tie that will undoubtedly require the big guns.
Could this be the moment Kvaratskhelia truly explodes?
He has the talent to torment the meanest of defences, that much is already clear, but he’s yet to become the talk of Europe.
A maiden Champions League group stage – his first European campaign of any sort, in fact – could soon sort that out. Be warned, Liverpool.