Throughout the 2019-20 season, Victor Osimhen became one of Europe’s most-wanted strikers. As a result, the Nigerian made the switch from Lille to Napoli in July 2020 for an initial fee of $70 million, potentially rising to $80 million with add-ons. But what did Napoli see in the 21-year-old that encouraged them to spend a record-breaking fee for an African player? Let’s take a look at the Lagos-born attacker’s attributes and assess what he’ll bring to Napoli.
Aggressive in Transitions
Within modern football, it’s no secret that managers are, more often than not, seeking to implement high-pressing styles. Because of that, forwards like Roberto Firmino and Timo Werner continue to impress through their tireless work rates. However, for the current Napoli boss, Gennaro Gattuso, having a lone striker who’s capable of defending from the front is central to his system’s success.
Since arriving in Naples to replace Carlo Ancelotti in December 2019, the 42-year-old manager has favored a defensive 4-3-3 formation. This stylistic approach requires wide players in offensive areas to pick up deep positions when out of possession. In turn, this leaves the lone forward needing to press from the front to relieve pressure.
Moreover, this defense-oriented style will require Osimhen to link-up play during counter-attacking transitions. At Lille, and according to a report by FootballBH, the 21-year-old predominantly stayed forward when his side were in a defensive phase of play. Upon regaining possession, the striker’s high line of engagement enabled Les Dogues to quickly go on the offensive, utilizing Osimhen’s physical capabilities.
Providing Goals and Assists
In addition to his off-the-ball work, Napoli has invested in Osimhen predominantly because of his goal-scoring prowess. Despite only spending one season at Lille, the Lagos-born attacker found the net on 18 occasions in all competitions, according to Transfermarkt. Furthermore, he also provided six assists. In turn, if he can replicate that form at the San Paolo Stadium, then Napoli could close the gap to Juventus at the top of Serie A in the coming years.
Interestingly, in comparison to Arkadiusz Milik, the 21-year-old boasts a higher return regarding assists per 90 than Napoli’s Polish striker, as per Understat. Furthermore, the graphic detailing Osimhen’s open-play shot positions showcase that he’s most prolific between the 18-yard box and the edge of the penalty area. In this regard, he’s less of a traditional poacher than Milik, who predominantly scores his goals inside the 18-yard box.
Osimhen’s well-rounded style will undoubtedly help Napoli achieve their long-term goals under Gattuso. Looking to the future, the 21-year-old will need to deliver if he is to establish himself as the go-to option for both club and country, particularly with the 2022 World Cup approaching, for which Nigeria are 100/1 with International football betting to win, as of August 5th. However, with Milik in the squad, he’ll have a fight on his hands to make the lone striking role his own. With the World Cup not far away, both players will need to be bold to be noticed.
A Selection Headache for Gattuso
For the 2020-21 season, Napoli’s manager will be spoiled for choice from an offensive perspective. Crucially, however, he has match-winning options at his disposal that could make the difference either from the start or off the bench. Although Osimhen has yet to consistently prove himself in Europe’s top leagues, his move to Naples could be the start of a trophy-winning career.