Lorenzo Insigne brings Napoli back to title race with inspired display against Fiorentina
There is something very dangerous about SSC Napoli this season.
With all talk revolving around surprise league leaders Milan, Inter’s neighbors and challengers, and struggling reigning champions Juventus, there is hardly any room for further narration from Serie A.
What seems to have been passionately remembered and then quickly forgotten is the passing of the great Diego Maradona, a man who will forever be revered and an inspiration to the whole city of Naples.
His tragic death brought a stuttering side of Naples back to life as they were all forced to face their own mortality and remember exactly why they fell in love with the beautiful game in the first place.
No player will have felt the devastation of Maradona’s passing more than local boy and Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne. The 29-year-old has spent his entire career playing at Stadio San Paolo, and he has often lived up to high expectations.
One thing missing from its heritage is a well-stocked trophy cabinet. The winger has won two Coppa Italia titles, the most recent at the end of last season. But Partenopei fans are all craving a Serie A title – something they haven’t tasted since Maradona last walked onto the pitch at the stadium that now bears his name.
The two scudetti they lifted with the Argentine great by their side remain the only successes of their kind in the club’s history, and no player can truly feel satisfied with their Napoli career until they finish. finally their 30 years of waiting for another.
This knowledge seemed to weigh heavily on Insigne’s shoulders in the past, as he grew frustrated at the comparisons made between his success and that of their former captain, Maradona. But that wake-up call slapped the winger across the face, and armed with a brand new tattoo to honor his predecessor, he is chipping away at making his people proud.
He started his rampage with a brilliant free-kick against AS Roma in their first league game after Maradona’s death, and his form since then has been nothing short of outstanding. Insigne plays one of the best footballers of his career, now producing flashes of brilliance in every game, which previously only glowed once every few weeks.
The winger has scored seven goals and provided three assists since late November, and his last outing against Fiorentina was the pick of the squad. La Viola traveled to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, having improved considerably under new management, including a famous 3-0 victory over rivals Juventus.
But Insigne made sure there wouldn’t be such a shock on the cards this time around, inspiring the hosts to a stunning 6-0 win and pulling them back into the top three in the process. The captain started the scoring after just five minutes, caressing the house up close after a nice team movement.
He then produced a moment of sheer genius to help the third and put the game to bed, picking up the ball from the left flank and starting a mazy dribble past three Fiorentina defenders, before cutting the end line with a perfect ball. Hirving Lozano was accredited with the goal, but that was all Insigne’s job.
The small forward complemented his statistical contributions by adding his second goal of the game, calmly rolling a penalty to bring Napoli’s fifth back in a 6-0 pounding. Matteo Politano has lifted the curtain on another sensational display from Partenopei, as they have recorded four or more goals in a game for the sixth time this season.
Those three points brought Napoli within six of Milan and three of second-placed Inter, putting them well in the conversation for the scudetto candidates – where they deserve to be.
While all the tales surround Andrea Pirlo winning his first title as a manager, with Antonio Conte ending Juve’s monopoly or Milan announcing his return as a European power, one tale is stronger and bigger than the others.
In other words, the city of Naples welcoming another son in immortality, having guided his native club to his third league title in history, all in the name of Diego Armando Maradona. Goose bumps.