Glory Hunter – Napoli 2020/21: The Squad

A review of the players who got us through this long and ultimately glorious season, in shirt number order…

1. Alex Meret
Age – Nationality: 24 – (1 cap)
Current Value: £14.25 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Goalkeeper
Appearances – Clean Sheets: 34 (0) – 27
Average Rating: 7.13
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Regular starter who could still improve
Alex started the year as back-up to David Ospina and steadily wrested away the Colombian’s number one post. A great shot stopper who kept clean sheet after clean sheet, his year has ended with him being named our undisputed regular keeper, with an objective to usurp Donnarumma within the national set-up.

2. Giovanni Di Lorenzo
Age – Nationality: 27 – (10 caps)
Current Value: £26.5 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Right Wing-Back
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 24 (2) – 1 – 5
Average Rating: 7.26
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Displays resolute characteristics
Our first choice at right-back, Gio had a good year that was undermined by a string of niggling injuries. There were five separate lay-offs across the campaign, ranging from a couple of days’ out to a six-week lay-off with a broken toe. More a case of bad luck than anything chronic, though the pulled knee ligaments that are keeping him out while I write these words seem to be a recurring problem. Will this matter? Do Gio’s obvious qualities make the occasional lack of availability worthwhile? He was certainly valuable to us, with good crossing and a willingness to patrol his flank endlessly, just a shame it wasn’t more often.

3. Alex Grimaldo
Age – Nationality: 25 – (0 caps)
Current Value: £19 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Left-Sided Complete Wing-Back
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 23 (1) – 0 – 2
Average Rating: 7.22
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Good balance and ability on the ball
Like Di Lorenzo, Alex had occasional problems with injuries (we ended up brining in Santon to cover for a lengthy absence from the Spaniard). When available this new signing quickly asserted himself as the best in his position, an excellent dribbler and decision maker with a great passing range and the telepathic ability to pick out team-mates at will. I like him. He likes big matches. There’s a worrying note on his record that he has declined slightly as a footballer, however this could be a result of his two months out with torn thigh muscle that he suffered earlier in the year.

4. Kostas Manolas
Age – Nationality: 29 – (50 caps, 1 goal)
Current Value: £27 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Central Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 34 (2) – 5 – 1
Average Rating: 7.29
Key Coaching Comment: ‘The fans like this player
Kostas has just completed his second season with the Partenopei, an important one as his regular partnership with Koulibaly became a brick wall at the back and rendered us close to impenetrable. The Greek international had an eye for goal also, his big frame making him an ideal target during set-pieces. Physically he’s close to miraculous. His mental numbers are great also, and though his overall technical levels suggest he’s a defender ultimately of the no-nonsense ilk there are few better.

5. Tiemoue Bakayoko
Age – Nationality: 26 – (1 cap)
Current Value: £25.5 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 31 (3) – 1 – 2
Average Rating: 7.12
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Extremely interested in joining our club
Hulking French DM who effortlessly overshadowed Diego Demme to become first choice for his role. ‘Tim’ is on loan from Chelsea, and we need to give him back because they want more for him than we can ever afford at this stage, though we have an eye on the lapse of his Blues contract in a year’s time. A big game player who trains well, is still improving and whose ambitions matched my own in the sense he always wanted to win, right up until the last moment, the only real negative was his disciplinary record. Six yellow cards and two reds, both for second bookings, an area of his game he must look to improve.

6. Kalidou Koulibaly
Age – Nationality: 29 – (49 caps, 2 goals)
Current Value: £46 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Central Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 44 (2) – 5 – 3
Average Rating: 7.32
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Star player in his prime years
One of our undisputed star players, ‘Kouly’ has just finished his seventh season with the club, gaining the captaincy and starting the most games for us out of the entire squad. Pretty much undroppable, the Senegalese revelled in his role and his partnership with Manolas; a brave and hardworking defender who never stopped toiling for the cause. Manchester United want him (again), and I would expect an offer far in excess of his value before considering letting him talk to them.

7. Eljif Elmas
Age – Nationality: 21 – (29 caps, 5 goals)
Current Value: £14.75 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Advanced Playmaker/Mezzala
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 25 (16) – 3 – 5
Average Rating: 7.04
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Could improve by a slight amount in the future
Considered to be the third best in our complement of central midfielders, Eljif ended up playing a lot of games without ever really advancing the case that he was critical to the cause. Fairly consistent and capable of great skill, the Macedonian was at his best when was supporting on either flank and provided some fine assists. Growing as a baller, particularly in his passing range, his final goals count was a little disappointing and I’m looking forward to seeing this improve.

8. Fabian
Age – Nationality: 25 – (13 caps, 3 goals)
Current Value: £48.5 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 32 (13) – 10 – 12
Average Rating: 7.18
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Should be considered a leading Serie A player
Fabian blitzed my senses with his sheer virtuosity in the season’s early weeks. I thought I’d found the new De Bruyne, a complete midfield quarterback, and whilst it didn’t work out quite up to those dizzying heights he was nevertheless a key player for us. Undoubtedly world class, with the kind of passing ability that borders on the supernatural, and having scored ten goals for us from midfield, many of them absolute bangers, I feel lucky to have him on board. A class act.

9. Victor Osimhen
Age – Nationality: 22 – (13 caps, 8 goals)
Current Value: £23.5 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Pressing Forward
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 26 (13) – 20 – 3
Average Rating: 7.04
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Has explosive pace
Vic ended up being our top goalscorer, with twenty, many of those strikes coming in the early stages of the Europa League where he was allowed to run riot. Otherwise his brief was to wrest the leading striker’s role from Dries Mertens, which he indeed ended up doing, becoming the more reliable source of goals. For all that, he was an expensive acquisition for us. £64 million is a layout that is hard to justify, and I’m not sure Vic ever looked like he fit the bill as a world class striker. He’s young though, he’s definitely improving, and he possesses pace to die for.

11. Hirving Lozano
Age – Nationality: 25 – (44 caps, 13 goals)
Current Value: £21 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Inverted Winger (both sides)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 25 (21) – 13 – 7
Average Rating: 7.02
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Ability to do the unexpected
Hirving’s second season with the club must be considered a success, though that isn’t without caveats. A smart, agile and tricky footballer who is equally comfortable on either flank, the Mexican scored some crucial goals for us and could dazzle the fans with his sheer guile. On the downside, his willingness to fight for the cause was in some doubt; he isn’t a strong player, and I understand he is wondering whether he should be moving to a so-called bigger club. I am tempted to let him go if a good offer comes in for him, say from the perpetually hovering Chelsea, for instance. He rarely suggested that Insigne was in any danger of losing his place in the team, that’s for certain.

12. Armando Izzo
Age – Nationality: 29 – (3 caps)
Current Value: £17.75 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Ball Playing Defender
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 27 (0) – 2 – 1
Average Rating: 7.10
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Considered a smart player
A relatively cheap acquisition by me at £11 million, Armando was brought in for two reasons (i) to provide good quality cover for our starting centre-backs (ii) he increased our homegrown cohort of first team footballers. There’s no doubt that he isn’t up to the standard of Koulibaly and Manolas, but he provided good service when he did start, which was mainly to give his peers a break, tackling cleanly and showing great determination in producing the food for his hometown team. He’s delighted to be here and we are happy to have him.

13. Mario Rui
Age – Nationality: 30 – (15 caps)
Current Value: £13.5 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Left Wing-Back
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 30 (3) – 1 – 6
Average Rating: 7.35
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Put in some really good performances recently
At first glance Mario didn’t impress me much. A small, bustling figure with a Musketeers moustache, everything about him seemed average. I signed Grimaldo to keep him out of the first team picture too often, but the Spaniard’s injury record landed him with a stack of appearances, during which he never let me down. A leader for whom the bigger the game the happier he is, the Portuguese has been impressive enough to get picked for his national team in the Euros, where it is suggested he will displace Guerreiro in the first eleven. Not a bad year’s work then.

14. Dries Mertens
Age – Nationality: 34 – (98 caps, 18 goals)
Current Value: £5.25 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Inverted Winger (Left)/Advanced Forward
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 31 (11) – 16 – 13
Average Rating: 7.05
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Regular starter but may be past his best
A reliable performer in his eight seasons in Neapolitan blue, Dries is at last beginning to find his powers on the wane. Especially where his physical numbers are concerned the arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction, suggesting that his status as our starting forward is drawing to a close. On his day he could be very, very good; equally there were increasingly anonymous showings as he couldn’t keep up with the action, and by the end he was usurped by Vic Osimhen, which in many ways is exactly how it should be. Now entering the final year of his contract, the plan is to keep Dries around, largely as a back-up who can support the wings as well as attack, and to hope that he gets something from his twilight as a player coinciding with the club’s best years.

15. Riccardo Orsolini
Age – Nationality: 24 – (1 cap, 1 goal)
Current Value: £13.75 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Inverted Winger (Right)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 29 (19) – 10 – 10
Average Rating: 7.09
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Potential to be a leading Serie A right winger in the future
I signed Riccardo to play as the alternative on our right wing to Politano, and thanks to his sheer effervescence and injuries elsewhere he ended up playing a lot of football for us. While his numbers are good rather than excellent, the Ascolian had a fine first season playing at a higher level than he used to, his boyish enthusiasm and efforts to please slowly winning us all over. Fast and a fantastic dribbler, he has all the basics intact and now just needs to improve across the board.

16. Nikita Contini
Age – Nationality: 25 – (0 caps)
Current Value: £1.2 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Goalkeeper
Appearances – Clean Sheets: N/A
Average Rating: N/A
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Might not have the required ability or potential
Third choice behind Ospina and Meret, Nikita was never going to get much of a look in at the San Paolo and instead spent his year playing for the Under-20s, for whom he kept twenty clean sheets in thirty-one showings. Not bad at all, but the coaches feel that he is operating at Serie C level and ultimately may never make the grade. In the end, he’s here to pad out our homegrown numbers, but that’s about all there is.

17. Stanislav Lobotka
Age – Nationality: 26 – (32 caps, 3 goals)
Current Value: £12.25 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Deep Lying Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 24 (25) – 2 – 6
Average Rating: 6.97
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Is a fairly loyal person
It took me a good long while to realise that Stan’s best position may not be in central midfield at all, but rather playing just behind as a DM. His starts there at the tail-end of the season suggested there’s something in that. He can pass really well, and his overall team play is highly valued. Against that are his deficiencies in attacking areas, his lower-than-average key pass count and the low number of assists he has provided. Maybe defensive midfield is his best role for the future.

18. Diego Demme
Age – Nationality: 29 – (1 cap)
Current Value: £9.5 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 28 (5) – 0 – 0
Average Rating: 7.12
Key Coaching Comment: ‘A perfectionist who constantly strives for improvement
Despite the fairly high rating I’m ambivalent about Diego, notably the high aggression levels that earned him a slew of bookings. He played eighteen league games and racked up ten yellow, which amounts to more than one per every two appearances. All of which said, he’s a very hard worker with the sort of stamina that will keep him going for an age; plus he’s a good team player and a leader on the pitch. If I can find better out there then that might do for him, similarly if someone comes in with an offer I will be happy to gift wrap him for you, but he isn’t without his uses.

19. Nikola Maksimovic
Age – Nationality: 29 – (34 caps, 1 goal)
Current Value: £8 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Full-Back (Right)/No-Nonsense Centre-Back
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 14 (0) – 2 – 0
Average Rating: 7.30
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Has a fairly sporting attitude
Try to look beyond the big numbers. Nikola was considered to be the last and least of our central defenders and was used sparingly, mainly in games against the kind of opposition where it was safe to drop the usual starters. The Serb’s ability to fill in at full-back proved to be occasionally useful, and his sheer size (he’s 6’ 4”) made him a unit in the middle, but overall he was a long way sort of the standard I’m looking for and he is surplus to requirements.

20. Piotr Zielinski
Age – Nationality: 27 – (60 caps, 7 goals)
Current Value: £29.5 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Advanced Playmaker
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 34 (8) – 4 – 10
Average Rating: 6.94
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Considered a creative player
A long serving member of the squad (he’s been here since 2016) who has been a consistent starter throughout, Piotr is considered to be our second best starting midfielder. He’s a cultured baller, robust with only a couple of slight injuries on his record, and his propensity for trying killer balls makes him something of an assist machine. Technical and creative, and supremely comfortable on the ball, the Pole is an absolute asset and he’s lusted after by Barcelona, who will be required to dig deep if they wish to call on his services.

21. Matteo Politano
Age – Nationality: 27 – (12 caps, 1 goal)
Current Value: £35.5 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Inverted Winger (Right)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 28 (13) – 12 – 11
Average Rating: 7.34
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Direct free kicks
Sometimes I think I can see why Napoli are in poor health financially. Risky splurges on the likes of Osimhen look reckless and frankly without need, however occasionally they get it very right. Matteo is here on loan, with a £17.25 million permanent transfer from Inter arranged in the summer. The winger, largely unloved at the Giuseppe Meazza (Conte don’t do wingers!), thrilled from the start, scoring and creating with abandon, and he’s wonderful on set pieces. He’s been a revelation, a high-rated performer who has become a regular for his country whilst here. The only thing I don’t like is his high susceptibility to injury, with five separate incidents where he’s been ruled out throughout the course of the year.

22. Davide Santon
Age – Nationality: 30 – (8 caps)
Current Value: £3.9 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Wing-Back (both sides)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 9 (11) – 1 – 1
Average Rating: 6.82
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Has shown early signs that he may be on the decline as a footballer
Signed on loan to buffer the loss of Grimaldo to a lengthy injury. Davide’s brief was to fill in where required and he largely met that requirement. A veteran full-back who works hard and brings good physical assets to the cause, he was also flexible and could fill in at either full-back role, however he was a long way short of the incumbent players. If any of the usual crew were available then they were preferred, which limited his appearances. The coaches believe that he’s on the wane, so he leaves with our thanks and an unwillingness to pay the £3.17 million buy-out clause to make his stay a permanent one.

23. Elseid Hysaj
Age – Nationality: 27 – (59 caps, 2 goals)
Current Value: £10 million
Homegrown status: Trained in nation
Position: Wing-Back (both sides)
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 32 (4) – 0 – 4
Average Rating: 7.26
Key Coaching Comment: ‘A current international with plenty of experience
I ended up rather loving this Albanian full-back, who came across as the junior to Di Lorenzo but wound up playing more games than he did (thanks to injuries) and could fill in just as consummately at left-back. Fit, fast and still improving as a player, the guy continually impressed me with his defensive awareness and his Duracell fitness levels, and I am resolved to keep him around. Various teams (Arsenal and Leicester) have been sniffing around, and I would expect them to pay through the nose if they are to take him from us.

24. Lorenzo Insigne
Age – Nationality: 29 – (41 caps, 10 goals)
Current Value: £42 million
Homegrown status: Trained at club
Position: Inverted Winger (Left)/False Nine
Appearances – Goals – Assists: 34 (17) – 16 – 9
Average Rating: 7.21
Key Coaching Comment: ‘The fans have a great affinity towards this player
Mr Napoli, and alongside Koulibaly and Fabian one of the three pillars of world class brilliance who helped to propel us to greatness this season. Our vice-captain, I stripped him of the captaincy because I’m not a fan of someone wearing the armband while playing so far forward, also I wanted him to focus on doing his funky thing on the wing. This is what he did, scoring very highly across the board, producing a very much above average number of shots, goals, assists and killer passes for someone in his role. Effortlessly better than Lozano and linking up supernaturally well with Dries Mertens, he’s a creative tour de force and he really cares about the team doing well. Replacing him, which we will have to do eventually, will be far from easy.

25. David Ospina
Age – Nationality: 32 – (110 caps)
Current Value: £9 million
Homegrown status: N/A
Position: Goalkeeper
Appearances – clean Sheets: 24 (0) – 19
Average Rating: 7.18
Key Coaching Comment: ‘Light-hearted and jovial character
A veteran keeper who has just finished his third season at the San Paolo, David used to be Arsenal’s choice when it came to cup competitions and became the same for us, slipping from his role as regular starter to play in Meret’s shadow. He isn’t especially happy about this, which is fair, however his rival is younger, Italian and probably all-round better overall. David played ten fewer matches and conceded the same number of goals (seven); admittedly many of these came in European competition against strong opposition. A decision has to be made, and in response to David’s complaint that he needs to be starting more games I have agreed to place him on the transfer list. My feeling is that there won’t be any shortage of interest, and I expect this to be the end of his time with us.

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