Victor Osimhen faces a fight to reclaim his No.9 shirt at Napoli despite scoring his maiden UEFA Champions League goal for the club against Ajax on Wednesday on his return to action for the Partenopei, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Free-scoring Napoli, who beat Ajax 4-2 on Wednesday to reach the knockout stages of the competition, take on Bologna at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Sunday (today) in what could be Osimhen’s 70th game for the club since his arrival in 2020.
The Nigerian had been out of action for 35 days following a spell on the sidelines through biceps femoris muscle injury.
But he returned with a bang, scoring an easy goal in the 89th minute goal after he harried Daley Blind into a mistake and tapped into an empty net for his third UCL goal – having scored two in five games for previous club Lille in the competition during the 2019/20 season.
Hirving Lozano and Giacomo Raspadori had scored to hand the Azzuris a two-goal lead before Davy Klaasen’s header reduced Ajax’s arrears after the break.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s penalty extended Napoli’s lead back to two goals, but the deficit was reduced again as Steven Bergwijn converting a penalty to cause a nervy finale, before Osimhen’s goal settled the nerves.
In his absence, Napoli’s goals didn’t dry up, as earlier speculated. Instead, Partenopei scored 23 goals in their last seven games, with Osimhen’s direct replacements Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone netting nine goals between them (five and four goals respectively).
Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has also scored six Serie A goals already and already earned himself the nickname ‘Kvaradona’.
Luciano Spalletti’s side tops the standings after nine games and they have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, with two games to spare, for the first time in their history. They have scored 39 goals in their first 13 games in all competitions and conceded only 11.
According to Corriere Dello Sports, the Super Eagles forward may start the encounter against Bologna from the bench to give room for Raspadori, who has scored six times in his last eight games for club and country.
This comes after former Italian striker, Claudio Bellucci, said Raspadori was a more functional option to lead the line for Napoli than Osimhen.
Bellucci highlighted Raspadori’s movement and team work as the edge which the 22-year-old had over the Nigeria international.
Osimhen and Raspadori have only played 84 minutes together this season and just once did they both start together — against Lecce at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, until the end of the first half.
“They tell me Raspadori plays like me, I like him, how he moves. He is doing very well, he is natural with both feet,” Bellucci told Calcio Napoli.
“Osimhen’s goal against Ajax was a message to Spalletti that he is back but I believe Raspadori is fitter at the moment, so he leads the attack.
“His (Osimhen) return is a strong point for Napoli, we have seen the anger with which he scored against Ajax. At the moment, I see Raspadori as more functional to what Spalletti wants because he makes the team play.”
However, Bellucci added that should the team make use of a counter-attacking style, then Osimhen would be the best option.
“Then if you want to defend yourself and start again from the back, then Osimhen is perfect. I would always like someone like him, who attacks from deep to be on my team,” Bellucci added.
Osimhen was cautioned against Ajax in added time after he took off his shirt on celebration of his goal.
Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti was not delighted.
“I asked Osimhen why he took off his shirt against Napoli and he could not answer me,” Spalletti told Radio Kiss Kiss.
“Sometimes, these players copy what others do and think its correct. From now on, no one will do it anymore.”
Meanwhile, Osimhen believes Napoli could win the Serie A following their brilliant start to the campaign.
Vincenzo Perna of Kiss Kiss Napoli, revealed that the striker gave a sign of yes when asked if Napoli will win the Scudetto.
“Those who asked (Osimhen) if Napoli will win the league he replied with a smile and a sign of yes.”