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Osimhen rubs shoulder with Maradona as Napoli wins Serie A title

Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia stand alongside Diego Maradona as Napoli greats after powering southern Italy’s biggest football club to just their third Serie A title.
Osimhen and summer signing Kvaratskhelia, 22, have struck up a devastating partnership this season which has been central to Napoli winning their first league crown since 1990 and fulfilling the dreams of a generation of supporters.
Osimhen has become one of the most devastating centre-forwards in European football, clattering in goals left and right and leading the team through the example of his immense hard work both on and off the ball.

The 24-year-old has netted 22 times in 26 league appearances, three more than his nearest rival for this year’s ‘Capocannoniere’, or league top scorer, with five games remaining.

Injury on international duty has slowed down the Nigeria forward’s scoring rate but between returning from a thigh injury in mid-October and the most recent round of African Cup of Nations qualifiers last month he averaged a goal a game.

Osimhen scored 23 times in 23 matches in all competitions over that period, propelling Napoli to the brink of a historic Scudetto and becoming a bona fide fan idol even before he scored the goal that secured the title on Thursday.

Cakes, coffees and easter eggs began to be made in his honour while children around the city wear face masks similar to his own.

Cardboard cut-outs of him and Kvaratskhelia pop up alongside long-standing murals of Maradona around Naples, as do separate depictions of Napoli’s new dynamic duo.

“You can boot the ball at him or in behind him and he always manages to get hold of it,” said Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti earlier this month.

“He’s also a fan favourite so when he plays he creates a wave of enthusiasm for the whole team… Players like him are just made of something different.”

– Dynamic duo –
But although Napoli and Naples are currently on top of the world, Italian football hasn’t been the world’s richest and most powerful for decades, and the idea of players of their quality staying for the seven years Maradona did now feels like a fantasy.

Between them Nigeria striker Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia have scored just under half of Napoli’s 69 league goals, the Georgian wing wizard also setting up 10 and providing the kind of individual brilliance which already has the world’s top club’s circling.

Perhaps put under too much pressure to deliver in his first season in a major championship, Kvaratskhelia’s form has wobbled in recent weeks but both he and Osimhen have shone so brightly this season questions over their futures are already being asked.

Napoli are one of the few Serie A clubs on a stable financial footing but owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is eventually going to want to cash in on his most valuable playing assets.

Rumours are already swirling of nine-figure sums being offered for Osimhen, whose contract expires in two years’ time and who said last month that it is his “dream to play in the Premier League some day”.

Late last month De Laurentiis blasted local reporters who asked the film mogul about a renewal to Kvaratskhelia’s contract which runs all the way to 2027, calling them “pains in the neck who… only think about filthy money”.

However in reality Napoli are preparing a one-year extension to Kvaratskhelia’s deal, more than doubling his salary of 1.2 million euros a season in a bid to stave off attention for Europe’s richer clubs.

Another run at the Champions League after reaching the quarter-finals for the first time might yet convince Osimhen to stay a little longer, enough time to for Napoli to trying going from a romantic storyline to establish themselves as a serious force at home and abroad.



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