The Lorenzo Insigne situation

Lorenzo Insigne NapoliTrouble is brewing in the Mediterranean between Lorenzo Insigne and Napoli after he was whistled and jeered off the pitch in Napoli’s recent 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao in a Champions League qualifying match.

Past two seasons with Napoli

Insigne joined his hometown club in the summer of 2012 and quickly became a fan favourite. Partenopei fans criticized former coach Walter Mazzarri for not giving the player an opportunity for maturity and growth.

But when he did feature, Insigne impressed. He contributed five goals and seven assists in league play to help Napoli reach second place and a precious Champions League spot.

The arrival of Dries Mertens from PSV Eindhoven last season meant that Insigne would face competition as left midfielder under new coach Rafael Benitez. The native Neapolitan had a great start to the 2013/2014 season with good performances in Serie A and the Champions League, including a tremendous free-kick against Dortmund. Many fans thought this past season would be his ‘breakout’ year.

However, Insigne took a slight dip in form and became almost a non-factor in some matches in which he featured. His stats did not measure up to the season prior. Nevertheless, his play did improve at the tail end of the season to warrant a place in Cesare Prandelli’s 23-man squad for the World Cup. He also scored a brace in the Italian Cup final against Fiorentina.

How did this dilemma come about?

The Italian international is an exciting talent, but his decision-making needs some improvement. Insigne is great in buildup play, but sometimes can be frustrating to watch in front of goal, as he can be a bit wasteful. The 23-year-old’s shots are often blocked or fail to hit the target. Compared to Napoli’s other attackers, Insigne recorded the lowest percentage of shots on goal last season. His small stature (1.63m, 59 kg) makes it easy for defenders to muscle him off the ball. Insigne’s consistency also remains an issue.

Unfortunately, playing for his hometown club puts him in a delicate situation. Whenever he performs well he is exalted like no other. However on his off days Insigne can and has contributed to a talking point of the side’s subpar displays.

In the present

After a disappointing World Cup performance and the Dimaro incident, the warm feelings have vanished between player and fanbase.

Italian media reported on Friday that Insigne begged Napoli and Benitez to be placed on the transfer list but the Spanish tactician declined, even with speculated interest from Arsenal and Atletico Madrid. Insigne leaving the club is not the right decision for both parties involved.

Insigne’s wife recently criticized the Napoli faithful claiming, “You don’t deserve him”. Whether or not her remarks should be openly discussed, the player has to recognize how to compose himself as a professional in wake of adversity. Ex-Napoli captain, Paolo Cannavaro, did not exhibit anger and frustration during his final six months with the club when fans continuously criticized him. He never waved his arms in an opposing manner or refused to speak in public. He never revealed his aggression. He stayed silent.

Insigne needs to realize that a couple uninspiring performances in succession may entail a fiery reaction from impatient fans, no matter where one might come from. Walter Gargano played his heart out against Athletic Bilbao recently despite obvious fan opinion against the Uruguayan international. Their opinions did not affect his play.

Final thoughts

Insigne has the skill and talent to become a phenomenal player. He needs to continue to work hard and maintain a level head in the face of some fan’s remarks. If Insigne can work on his consistency and decision-making, then he could potentially become the player many fans dreamed of and help diffuse the unfortunate situation with Napoli’s fans.

The Author

Matthew Amalfitano

I write about Italian football – mostly Napoli and the Italian National Team. My work has appeared on: FourFourTwo, Football Italia, Bleacher Report and others. I dig Led Zeppelin and French literature too.

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