From Georgia with love: Kvaratskhelia and his licence to skill

Napoli are flying high after their thrilling start to the season and no player exemplifies their electricity more than Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, writes Apollo Heyes.

The Partenopei had their sights set on the 21-year-old for a while and finally pulled the trigger in the summer, picking up the winger from Dinamo Batumi in a deal worth around €10m. Tying him to a five-year contract, Kvaratskhelia only earns a little over €1m net per season in the Campania capital, figures that look like a bargain in hindsight. 

Kvaratskhelia has exploded onto the scene in the Italian peninsula this season, scoring four goals and providing two assists in their opening seven league games. The statistics highlight his wizardry – the 21-year-old averages 3.8 shots per 90, 5.4 shot-creating actions per 90, 5.8 progressive carries per 90 and 5.4 attempted dribbles per 90. 

These numbers underline his danger in possession and ability to drive Luciano Spalletti’s side forward, not letting the myth of defensive football in Italy weigh on his game. Fans across the spectrum have already recognised his abilities and consider him a key threat on the left wing.

What the numbers don’t show is his magic with the ball at his feet, his intelligent off-the-ball movement, his delicious flicks and his deadly ability in one-on-ones, all of which make him one of the best in Serie A this campaign. Kvaratskhelia possesses an elegance on the pitch rarely seen and at 21 already looks to be the next biggest thing in Italian football.

When Napoli lost talismanic winger Lorenzo Insigne at the end of last season, many fans were understandably concerned about who could fill his boots, but the former Rubin Kazan forward has done just that and more, seemingly taking games into his own hands when needed.

In the Partenopei’s 4-1 win over Liverpool in their Champions League opener this season, Kvaratskhelia shined despite appearing for less than an hour; he successfully completed four dribbles, created three shots, individually produced an xG of 0.5 and an xA of 0.9 and he achieved all of this with just 27 touches.

This enchanting performance was followed up in Napoli’s second Champions League group stage clash with Rangers. Against the Scottish side, the Georgian winger created seven shots, made eight progressive carries and completed four dribbles, being a vital part of their 3-0 victory despite not registering a goal or assist. 

With a player as eclectic as Kvaratskhelia, it’s impossible to do justice to his abilities with words alone. In the same way that the tastes and delights of Khinkali, Georgian soup dumplings, cannot be discerned from any website or cookbook, the 21-year-old winger’s abilities and skills cannot be brought to life on paper. His play needs to be witnessed, enjoyed and appreciated to be fully understood.

The last time that Napoli won the Scudetto, they had the legendary Diego Maradona running things on the pitch. If Kvaratskhelia could replicate those achievements in Campania, he could soon find himself in a similar position of exaltation, but only time will tell.

3 Comments on “From Georgia with love: Kvaratskhelia and his licence to skill”

  1. Finally, a breath of fresh air in Serie A, a player that can terrorize defenders in Europe. When was the last time we could say that about a Serie A player. Kaka?

  2. @Donato,
    Chiesa also has the same veins. But yes Serie A would do well to foster and promote more of these types of players.

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