Lorenzo Insigne 21 Striker Napoli
You know, there are some people out there for whom the word ‘Napoli’ brings on a funny turn. In a good way.
Slick, counter-attacking football with the emphasis on fast and precise passing, a clutch of rather handsome players in forward positions, *that* former number 10 and his problems with the Italian tax authorities, Edinson Cavani, the many hairstyles of Marek Hamšík, that lovely sky-blue shirt…a man could have his head turned you know.
And another reason may just turn out to be Lorenzo Insigne.
If we must discuss any player over 6 foot 5 in terms of being a ‘big man’ but no matter for they have ‘great feet’, then with Insigne coming in at just 5 foot 4 inches maybe we need a new cliché. ‘Wonderful feet for one with such small shoes’ maybe? We don’t really know if we want to be part of that but we do know this - Insigne is a class act and right now depending on your tastes, for IBWM’s money he’s part of some of the sexiest football around.
No wonder really when you consider who Napoli trusted a big chunk of his development to. There are few manager’s names more evocative than Zdeněk Zeman and few who can harness an attacking team’s intentions quite so pleasingly. At times it may border on the kamikaze and the experiment doesn’t always work but that’s to ignore the important sentiment – the unabashed feeling of ‘what a ride’ a Zeman team in full flow can give you. He may have never quite reached the heights of that early 90s Zemanlandia again but he remains a force to be reckoned with and one almost universally considered for good in the game. Insigne is one of many to have benefited from his tutoring.
Sent out essentially on loan (we’ll not go into the complexities of Italian loan/co-ownership details here for fear of you nodding off) with few expectations beyond getting some game time, he arrived at Zeman’s Foggia team in 2010 keen to play. Having blossomed in Napoli’s youth system and already created a reputation as a hard-worker but one who was not adept at battling with much larger defenders yet. Zeman fostered a ‘take-them-all-on’ attitude and reminded him without the ball he wouldn’t improve, so he better go and win it.
This was his second spell away from Napoli and his first at Cavese had produced little of note. This time with third division Foggia he flourished however, and scored 19 times in 33 appearances. This represented a terrific return and an Insigne who was now unafraid returned to Napoli a far better player. Agreeing to take a further year’s development at a Serie B side to continue his progress, Pescara took him on and were delighted to have secured him for the year under the stewardship of their new manager - Zdeněk Zeman.
Reunited with a coach who fostered his attacking instinct to the full, Insigne once again blossomed. This time he made the step up a level and continued where he had left off, scoring 18 times in 37 appearances and really making people sit up and take notice of him. Pescara finished as champions but even more impressively scored 90 goals. In typical Zeman fashion they lost 4 more games than Torino in second place but only drew 5 games compared to their 11. If the win was there for the taking they went for it. Insigne had been in inspirational form.
Returning to Napoli this season he faced an uncertain future. Now highly sought after by others and well respected within the club, would he get time to play in Serie A? The answer was yes, very much part of first team plans following the €30m transfer of Ezequiel Lavezzi to PSG and despite the wealth of established attacking talent available to Walter Mazzarri (Cavani, Vargas, Pandev and Hamšík) a place has been found for Insigne time and time again. To date he is repaying the faith shown in him rather nicely.
His attitude has made him a favourite with both coaching staff and team-mates alike and after a period of adjustment at the obvious step up in class, November has seen his best form in a Napoli shirt yet. The goals have been harder to come by but two in a November week against Genoa and Milan have been just reward for the way in which he’s been playing.
Internationally they’ve been monitoring his progress with interest as well. A fixture in the U21 side and on the score-sheet throughout 2011, 2012 has bought his first full cap for the Azzurri in a World Cup qualifier against Malta. Again his attitude is what has impressed the most, his dedication to hard work and achieving his goals notable and wherever he plays he becomes a player the fans love. You can pull off every trick in the book on the pitch but at the base of our hearts is that spot which loves someone who’ll chase a lost cause all day long for the team. Insigne is that player and more and like we said, is now very much another reason to love Napoli.
There are one or two slight negatives to note, an over-reliance on his right foot needs work and like all Zeman-influenced players he can be prone to giving the ball away chasing the attack that isn’t there. He needs to learn a little more patience in a league famed for it but it will come with maturity naturally. For the moment he remains a player on the up and still overachieving what is expected of him. If there’s a ceiling to his ability we may not be too far from it in truth, but that’s outweighed by what we have in the now and by a player more than willing to keep working to hone his craft.
“A genuine revalation at Pescara last term, the striker has already forced his way into the Napoli line-up after the departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi to whom he seems a natural successor. Almost perfect for Mazzarri’s counter-attacking side.’– Adam Digby (ESPN, Sports Illustrated)
C+ Going really well, a hugely likable player at a hugely likeable club