x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Crucial for Napoli to keep top scorer Edinson Cavani

But Lorenzo Insigne is waiting in the wings should the Uruguayan be sold by the Serie A club, despite claims from officials 'there is no way we would let him go,' writes Ian Hawkey.

Lorenzo Insignie, left, celebrates with Napoli teammate Edinson Cavani after scoring the winner against Cagliari. Salvatore Laporta / AP Photo
Lorenzo Insignie, left, celebrates with Napoli teammate Edinson Cavani after scoring the winner against Cagliari. Salvatore Laporta / AP Photo

Barely had Napoli drawn breath after their late winner against Cagliari than did the team's sports director assure Neapolitans that Edinson Cavani, who struck his 23rd goal of the Serie A season in the 3-2 win, was unsellable.

"There is no way we would let Cavani go," Napoli's Riccardo Bignon said.

Statements like that, made in mid-April, tend to inspire as much trepidation as they do trust. This is not to cast aspersions on the sincere desire of Napoli to keep the centre-forward, who has become a figurehead of the club's progress in the last three seasons, but to acknowledge that Cavani occupies a very special position in the transfer market.

He knows it and they know it: Cavani's name is right at the top of the most-desired list for several clubs across Europe with bigger budgets than Napoli's.

How much would they miss him were he go to the English Premier League, or to Real Madrid? On the evidence of the last two months, a great deal.

Cavani's eight-match goal drought ran through February and into March and was a fallow period for Serie A's probable silver-medallists. They won only one of the six league games in which Cavani's flow of goals stopped.

The run of four wins and a draw from their last five, to within touching distance of the runners-up spot that will gain them automatic entry into the next Uefa Champions League, coincided with a sharper, more familiar Cavani: He has struck five times in that sequence.

But the weekend's victory, eked out against a lively Cagliari, left most of the San Paolo with the happy sentiment that a new potential crowd favourite is maturing nicely.

Lorenzo Insigne's long-range winner, said its author, ranked as "the best goal of my career". The 21-year-old, Napoli-born and with a distinct Napoli accent, has shown enough burgeoning promise to have already erased fears that losing Ezequiel Lavezzi - he moved to Paris Saint-Germain - would be immensely damaging. Insigne, still introduced from the bench quite often, has not the obvious industry of Lavezzi but he may turn out to be a more prolific goal scorer, given time.

At Pescara, where Napoli go this weekend, they would testify to that. Insigne's 18 goals last season while on loan there from Napoli, helped gain Pescara promotion from Serie B.

They would have liked him to stay, and they hope he might be merciful on his return there, marooned as Pescara are at the bottom of the table.



twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE