Khvicha Kvaratskhelia lived up to the comparisons to icon Diego Maradona with a wonder goal that has Napoli on a high ahead of their Champions League showdown with Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Georgia winger has become one of Europe’s hottest properties after an incredible first season in Napoli, the most preternaturally talented Napoli player since Maradona tried out in southern Italy in the 1980s.
And now he is ready to take Napoli to the quarterfinals of Europe’s top club competition for the first time in its history, 13 goals and as many assists in all competitions make him the star, along with Victor Osimhen, of a really brilliant club. equipment.
His outrageous goal that put Napoli on course for a 2-0 win over Atalanta on Saturday was the perfect example of the 22-year-old’s close control and precision play, which has been decisive time and time again this season.
Having been beaten at home by Lazio the week before, there were some fears after the goalless first half that a typical spring collapse for Luciano Spalletti’s teams was on the cards, but then ‘Kvaradona’ sprinkled his stardust .
After receiving a pass from Osimhen on a Napoli counter-attack, Kvaratskhelia charged into the Atalanta defense without reinforcements.
His first feint sent Rafael Toloi spinning and Giorgio Scalvini sliding into the air, but having fooled four defenders, he then sliced inside the stunned Toloi before crashing off the near post.
When he fired, Kvaratskhelia was alone in the penalty area with seven Atalanta players powerless to stop the goal that lifted Napoli to victory and nearly sealed their first Scudetto since 1990.
“He scored a goal worthy of Maradona, this time you can really tell, looking at the quality of control in such a tight space… when he runs towards you it’s basically impossible to score,” Spalletti told reporters after the game.
The elected champions of Italy face Eintracht with a 2-0 lead to defend after a crushing performance in the first leg in Germany and nothing but positive vibes surrounding the team.
– Deep run –
With an incredible 18-point lead at the top of Serie A, Spalletti’s entertaining side are looking for a big run in Europe and have the perfect opportunity to reach the last eight.
Spalletti said after the first leg that Napoli’s biggest enemy was “to think it’s done” but the stars could hardly have been better aligned for his team.
Basically, he should have his entire squad available for Wednesday’s game after the blows sustained to first-choice goalkeeper Alex Meret and key center-back Kim Min-jae before and during Saturday’s win turned out to be non-serious.
Meanwhile, Eintracht are without star striker Randal Kolo Muani, who was sent off in the first leg and has scored eight goals in 11 games in all competitions since the turn of the year.
And Eintracht won’t have its usual army of away fans in Naples after the city’s prefecture banned people residing in Frankfurt from buying tickets on Sunday.
On Saturday, an initial ban on anyone in Germany buying tickets, imposed on Friday by the Italian Interior Ministry after problems in the first leg, was overturned following an appeal by Eintracht.
The latest decision to limit ticket sales as a public safety measure angered Eintracht, whose board member Philipp Reschke said in a statement the club would not take any of his allowance.
“It is a well-known fact that two-thirds of our fans are from outside the Rhine-Main region and do not come from Frankfurt,” he said.
“There would be countless possible ways to circumvent this decree and bring parts of our fan base into the stadium…we will not divide ourselves into zip code areas.”
Eintracht is appealing the decision despite not taking the 2,700 available places, but “in view of the moment, (it’s) more about principle for us and how it affects future decisions.”