If the Italian domestic league has a few reasons to be happy about, Lorenzo Insigne is one of them. While the Premier League clubs continue to look abroad for more talent, the Serie A has looked inwards into its own ranks to provide future stars for the national team. One of the most exciting teams this season has been Napoli. The Naples based club have dealt with the loss of star front man, Ezequiel Lavezzi, yet going on to become genuine Serie A contenders at this point of the season; sitting 6 points behind defending champions, Juventus.
The one player who has risen through the ranks and is considered as an equal to Goran Pandev or high profile summer signing, Eduardo Vargas, is Lorenzo Insigne. The Naples born player was chased from a very young age, but was denied a high-profile youth career due to his short stature. Most famously, he was declined by Inter Milan’s youth academy for the very same reason. But Inter’s loss was Napoli’s gain, who signed him for a very nominal fee.
Ever since making his debut for the Partenopei in 2010, against Livorno, Insigne was loaned out to a number of lower division clubs for first team experience. While moving around the lower rungs of Italian football, Insigne was tutored by the legendary, Zdenek Zeman, whose style of football is imprinted upon the player’s every movement on the football field.
After being loaned to Cavese, he was sold to Foggia in a co-ownership deal, with Napoli still retaining a majority share in the player’s rights. Effectively, maintaining an opportunity to buy back the player for cheap, if he were to flourish at other clubs.
It was at Foggia that Insigne was first introduced to Zeman. While many turned Insigne away due to his diminutive stature, Zeman asked Little Lorenzo to go head first into the game. The one stat that Zeman added to Insigne’s play was a dogged ability and effort to maintain possession and keep masterful control of the ball, at all times.
At Foggia, Lorenzo scored 19 goals in 33 games. Next season, Zdenek Zeman moved to Serie B side, Pescara. The Frattamaggiore born boy, was offered a loan move towards the Adriatic shores to continue under his tutor. This time, Insigne managed 18 goals and 14 assists, helping the Delfini move to the Serie A, for the first time in 19 years. Later as Zeman departed for Rome, Insigne was called back to Naples, to replace the departed Lavezzi.
STYLE, STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
It’s hard to classify Insigne as a centre forward or a striker. This is mainly due to the fact that while he has contributed to goals from either position, his poor finishing means, he cannot be classified as an out-and-out striker.
In Zeman’s system, he was often deployed on the left side of Pescara’s front three. A certain position, preferred by the likes of Lukas Podolski at Arsenal and by David Villa at Barcelona. Though predominantly right footed, he is often played to the left of the field, allowing him to increase the precision of his kick. Also being deployed out of position, would often end up in favor of Insigne as he would be allowed to join the center forward in attack from behind or going up front alone to nick in the goals.
The slow nature of the Italian game means that the Insigne will be able to enhance his abilities going forward, allowing him to contribute as well as score on his own. This is mainly due to Insigne’s excellent dribbling and ability to construct key passes in the final third. The player’s tiny stature means he possesses a low center of gravity, allowing him to wiggle past defender’s easily, maintaining supreme control over the ball. This inevitably leads to him being a typical forward who hold up possession going up front, for others like Cavani to score goals.
In 32 appearances, domestic and European, Insigne has managed 4 goals and 7 assists, averaging 1.9 shots per game. Also he has made 1.2 key passes per appearance. This is pretty excellent, considering Insigne has played only 15% of the 32 appearances, for the whole ninety minutes. Though the stats might seem paltry, for a player of his age, Insigne has an amazing pass completion rate of 80% per game and puts in an average 24 passes per appearance.
Most of Lorenzo’s 20 shots on target for Napoli have come from around the box via long-range shots, with an equal number coming from a closer range too. Also Insigne is highly regarded for his tackling ability with an average of 0.6 tackles per game, with an 83% success rate. Also he has been engaged in about 110 duels, with him emerging successfully in 47 of them. Decent defensive stats for a player, who is known for going up front with swagger.
“I was surprised with his attitude: he’s young but very dedicated to his job. He trains hard and listens very carefully to Mazzarri. He obviously is less experienced than Lavezzi, but, from a technical point of view, they’re very similar. More, Insigne is more precise in front of the goal line: Lavezzi shows up quite often in the danger zone but many times he just makes the wrong choice.”
-Napoli wing-back, Christian Maggio.
One of the marked differences between Insigne and his predecessor is his inability to score goals. But as long as the likes of Cavani and Hamsik are around, Lorenzo’s drawback can be forgiven and more can be expected from him as a creator for the other two.
To develop more into Napoli’s attacking system, Insigne needs more appearances in European competitions and more playing time in domestic games. While this may not be a privilege for the young Lorenzo this season, the imminent departure of Cavani to a foreign league in forthcoming seasons, means that Insigne will be expected to challenge Vargas for the Uruguayan’s maestro’s mantle up front.
Lorenzo Insigne was handed his first call up to the national team during the games against Bulgaria and Malta, where in he made his first appearance during the second game, the World Cup qualifier against Malta.
Insigne’s latest contributions include an assist against Parma, during a 2-1 victory and a goal against Palermo at the Stadio San Paolo.
After having moved a lot within the lower rungs of the Italian football pyramid Insigne seems settled in his hometown club. There have been passing tidings of interest from Arsenal and Man City, but none of which are serious. Latest, in January, PSG were linked with a move for the forward, but it turned out to be speculation from the player’s agent, Antonio Ottaiano, who swiftly dismissed the rumor.
As mentioned earlier, with Cavani’s future at Napoli under question and Vargas’ big money move failing to impress the Partenopei faithful, Insigne is considered as a hot candidate for succeeding the Uruguayan, whenever he leaves.
Also a writer at The Rational Pie, Sportskeeda and The Football Story.
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