Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen is edging closer to full fitness and is expected to make his return to competitive football after the international break.
Why Victor Osimhen faces a fight to reclaim starting berth as Napoli striker
Victor Osimhen is close to full recovery from injury but his starting spot at Napoli may no longer be guaranteed
Osimhen suffered an hamstring injury in Napoli’s 4-1 demolition of Liverpool on September 7 and was initially ruled out for six weeks but is now set to return sooner than expect.
But the Super Eagles striker may be faced with unusual competition for his previously undisputed starting berth at Napoli in the form of Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori.
Napoli's new signings are coming for Osimhen’s spot
Argentine striker Giovanni Simeone was signed in the summer transfer window for €17 million after scoring 17 Serie A goals for Hellas Verona last season so it would be inaccurate to call him Osimhen’s backup especially since the Nigerian scored three fewer goals.
But Osimhen is Napoli’s franchise player, a €75 million signing, the most expensive in the club’s history, Simeone could at best be a capable deputy which Napoli had lacked in previous seasons.
However, Simeone appears to be making a case to head coach Luciano Spalletti to become the outright striker for Napoli.
The Argentine has scored twice for Napoli since Osimhen got injured having not scored at all while the Nigerian was fit, giving the manager a lot to think about.
Giacomo Raspadori has also made a great impression so far since joining Napoli on loan from Sassuolo but unlike Simeone, he can actually play alongside Osimhen because of his flexibility and utility.
Giovanni Simeone v Victor Osimhen
In all honesty, there is no real basis for comparison between these two strikers as Osimhen is clearly the superior, ability-wise.
The Nigerian offers much more than Simeone in terms of workrate, speed and overall tenacity but Simeone’s style of lurking around the box like a proper number nine makes him more prolific than Osimhen and could be enough to change the mind of head coach Luciano Spalletti.
Admittedly, it is unlikelly that a fully fit Osimhen would benched but the fact that Simeone has scored twice in 190 minutes of football played so far this season, same as Osimhen who played 46 minutes for Napoli before he got injured.
Spalletti might look at that piece of information and choose Simeone’s goals over Osimhen’s energy, especially since the Nigerian seems to have a lot of trouble staying fit.
Spalletti’s difficult choice
As already established, Osimhen is the first choice when fit but the presence of Simeone and also Giacomo Raspadori has affected his undisputed status since arriving in Naples back in 2020.
As important as Osimhen is, Spalletti might be tempted to stick with Simeone and Raspadori just to help his team get used to playing without the Nigerian as a coping mechanism for his constant injuries.
Raspadori has also scored twice since Osimhen’s injury, reiterating the fact that Napoli now have potent options and don’t have to rely on Osimhen so much.
Simeone’s comments after scoring the match-winner against AC Milan at the weekend is an indication that there is indeed about to be a selection headache for te manager.
"Spalletti decides who to play, Raspadori and I have different styles of play. All the races are different, we are always available and whoever chooses the coach will play,” Simeone said, issuing a battle cry to Victor Osimhen.