Victor Osimhen’s move to Naples gathered a lot of attention and was met with huge expectations due to circumstances that surrounded the deal.
The Nigerian international joined Napoli from Lille for a club and African record fee of 81.3 million euros last summer.
Osimhen had just scored 18 goals in all competitions in his first and only season in France, and Napoli did not think twice before going all out for him.
However, the deal was not without drama as Osimhen changed his agent, while it also took a lot of convincing for him to agree to the deal.
Osimhen flew to Naples to meet with Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentis and Gennaro Gattuso, who was the club’s coach in the just-concluded season.
The ex-Golden Eaglets star eventually signed the record deal with a lot of expectations. He settled in quickly at the club, scoring a few goals in the pre-season.
Although he never really hit the ground running when the Italian Serie A kicked off, Osimhen still scored twice in the first seven league games.
But just as it appears he’s finally getting into his rhythm, Osimhen suffered a shoulder injury on international duty, which ruled him out for three months.
It got worse when he contracted coronavirus on his return from a trip to Nigeria, which ruled him out for another two weeks. The Super Eagles star eventually returned at the end of January, but the pressure was already building.
Meanwhile, during this period of inactivity, Napoli performances had also dropped, with pressure also building on Gattuso.
The Neapolitans performances dropped to an all-time low as they were dumped out of the Europa League. But following their exit from Europe’s second club competition, their form picked up, which coincided with Osimhen’s brilliant run in front of goal.
Gattuso had backed Osimhen during the period he was out, and he repaid his manager’s faith in him by scoring six goals and providing two assists in the last ten league games.
But despite his brilliant form in the business end of the season, Napoli missed out on Champions League qualification on the last day, which cost Gattuso his job.
Osimhen was sad to see the former AC Milan midfielder depart, and it showed in the emotional message he posted on his Instagram page.
It’s not a surprise to see the Nigerian sad over Gattuso’s exit, given how the ex-Italy star treated him. Gattuso protected Osimhen, knowing he’s a youngster in a new environment with a lot of pressure on his shoulder.
In fact, Gattuso is one of the major reasons why Osimhen decided to join Napoli. The newly-appointed Fiorentina manager even allowed Osimhen to travel to Nigeria in December for his 22nd birthday– although he contracted coronavirus on his return.
With the two having such a relationship, there are fears that Gattuso’s departure may affect Osimhen. However, the Nigerian international need not worry as Gattuso’s replacement is a manager that could actually help him reach unprecedented heights next season.
Former AS Roma coach, Luciano Spalletti was announced as Gattuso’s replacement and given his track record with strikers, his appointment is a good development for Osimhen.
Spalletti has worked with the typical number nine strikers in the past, and some of them had their best-scoring season under him.
The first player that comes to mind is Francesco Totti. Although not a natural striker, Totti played as a centre forward under Spalletti in the 2006/2007 season, and it turned out to be his highest-scoring season.
The Roma legend scored 26 league goals under Spalletti that campaign and also provided eight assists. Four years later, another striker named Aleksandr Kerzhakov had his best scoring season under the ex-Inter Milan manager at Zenith St. Petersburg.
Kerzhakov scored 23 league goals and registered 11 assists for Zenith under the Italian in the 2010/2011 campaign.
Edin Dzeko and Mauro Icardi, who both have a similar physique as Osimhen, had their best-scoring season in the Italian Serie A under Spalletti.
Dzeko scored 29 times and provided 13 assists in 37 games under Spalletti in the 2016/2017 campaign. Icardi also managed the same number of goals under the Italian the following season.
These players performances, especially Dzeko and Icardi, show why Spalletti’s arrival could take Osimhen’s game to the next level.
Although both Dzeko and Icardi are not blessed with the speed of Osimhen, they are the typical centre-forwards, which is something we could also say for Osimhen.
The Nigerian international scored ten league goals in the just-concluded season despite the injuries and coronavirus.
However, it could have been more had the team played to his strength. Osimhen had a good relationship with Gattuso, but he had to hustle for balls most of the time in his team.
Sometimes, there’s even a feeling that his teammates don’t want to play with him. In fact, most of the goals he scored were down to his ability.
While Gattuso also had his style, there were still some precepts of Sarri ball in the way Napoli played under him last season.
It’s not to say that’s why Osimhen struggled, but as stated earlier, he’s someone who relies on his pace a lot, and Napoli did not use that last season.
Spalleti’s work at Inter Milan and Roma, where the team played to the strength of Icardi and Dzeko, respectively, suggests Osimhen may have his best season yet when the new campaign starts.
He learned a lot under Gattuso and developed a strong relationship with him, but Spalletti’s arrival could be the best thing to happen to his career.