When Napoli begin their Serie A campaign at Hellas Verona on Monday, all eyes will be on their Nigerian import, Victor Osimhen. Osimhen. Osimhen is expected to play a leading role for Napoli as they attempt to build on last season's third-place finish in the league.
Osimhen is now Napoli's leading man but he is not Jesus
The Super Eagles star is expected to lead Napoli's quest for success in the Italian Serie A this season.
Although he joined Napoli from Lille for a club-record fee of €75m two years ago, Osimhen has never been considered a leader in Napoli's squad.
The leadership role was reserved for players like Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Kalidou Koulibaly. However, with the departure of these players, Osimhen suddenly becomes a leader and one of the senior players at Napoli.
Osimhen's biggest season yet at Napoli
At just 23, it may look like a big deal, but it is a status Osimhen needs to embrace. Osimhen has actually had a rollercoaster time at Napoli so far.
In his first year, he scored ten league goals in 24 games, which was decent for a young striker. But for a striker that cost the club a record fee, more is expected.
Last season, Osimhen scored 18 goals in all competitions, including 14 in the league- his highest in a single campaign.
It is obviously an improvement from his first season, but for a striker that costs a lot, he is expected to reach at least the 20-goal mark.
But while Osimhen's numbers could have been better, it is important to note that he was out of action for months in his first two years at Napoli. In his first year, he picked up a shoulder injury and then contracted Covid-19, which ultimately ruled him out for three months.
Last season was more of the same, with Osimhen staying on the sidelines for two months due to a broken face following a collision with Milan Skriniar.
These two injuries affected Osimhen's numbers in his first two seasons as he missed many games, which is why this season is just as important as his first year.
Osimhen's numbers in his first two years were decent, but he needs to aim higher this season, considering he will be the leading man up front.
The Nigerian international will be on penalty duties with Insigne gone, which should help his numbers this year. Also, Osimhen will be more involved in Napoli's game, considering the team will likely play to his strength, unlike the previous two years when he had to hustle for every ball.
Osimhen will not save Napoli unless they buy quality players
However, while Osimhen could have a big year and is expected to play a key role at Napoli this season, it is also important to note that it may not be enough unless the Neapolitans strengthen their squad.
Last season, Luciano Spalletti's men finished third but could have easily won the league if not for their capitulation at the business end of the campaign.
Nonetheless, Napoli were only able to compete for the title because they had a good squad. This season, though, they may not be able to challenge for the title after selling some of their key players without replacing them.
The Neapolitans have sold their first two captains, Insigne and Koulibaly, without bringing in players at a similar level to replace them. They will also be without Mertens, who has joined Galatasaray on a free transfer.
While the age of these three players is on the other side of 30, they have always been key players for Napoli. The club would not have been able to challenge for the league title last season without these three stars.
Insigne scored 11 goals and provided eight assists for Napoli in the league last season. Of the eight assists, three were for Osimhen, even though there were talks of Napoli players being selfish towards the Nigerian international.
Insigne is an invaluable asset Osimhen's quality cannot replace. The Italian international was involved in 113 shot-creating actions last season and created 16 goalscoring actions- the third highest from a Napoli player.
Yet, Napoli have failed to replace the attacking threat their former captain brings, relying on Osimhen and the likes of Hirving Lozano and Matteo Politano to get the job done.
Osimhen cannot be expected to perform the role of Insigne and also score goals, which is his primary role. He is not Messi, Neymar or Suarez. Aside from Insigne, Napoli have also failed to replace Koulibaly, who has left for Chelsea. The Senegalese international is one of the best defenders in the world, and his leadership at the back will definitely be a big miss for Napoli.
Not only that, but his ability to play out from the back means he also contributes greatly to Napoli's attacking play. The new Chelsea man scored three times and assisted another three in 27 league games for Napoli last season.
Although he may be old, Mertens is another player Napoli have failed to replace, not to mention the imminent departure of Fabian Ruiz.
Ruiz is on his way to PSG, meaning Napoli is set to lose another creative outlet following the departure of Insigne.
The Spanish international created nine-goal scoring actions in the league last season, the fifth highest from a Napoli player, yet the Neapolitans have failed to replace him.
It is quite laughable that Napoli have let all these important players leave without bringing in suitable replacements, hoping for players like Osimhen to do the work.
But while Osimhen has a huge role to play this season, he will not replace the missing quality of Koulibaly, Insigne and Ruiz.
A lot is expected from the Nigerian in every game he plays for Napoli this season, but he is not a miracle worker. Osimhen will always give his maximum effort, but Napoli will only challenge for the league if they strengthen their weakened squad.
Aside from that, only Jesus (not the Arsenal one) can save Napoli, and Osimhen is not the man from Bethlehem.