Serie A 2023-24 Preview: What to expect from Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia after quiet transfer window

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In a summer of unsettling Serie A departures, Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis bucked the trend by refusing to sell his prize-attacking duo Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen, writes Stephen Kasiewicz.

Sensational tales involving eye-watering sums had striker Victor Osimhen and winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia following the money trail to cash-laden destinations.

De Laurentiis is one of the shrewdest operators in European football and was never going to let either of the brilliant double act leave on the cheap. The film producer made a fortune by releasing easily dismissed festive cinepanettoni comedy movies, but few emerge smiling after a gruelling session around the negotiating table with the 74-year-old.

The man nicknamed ‘Kvaradona’ has a contract with the Partenopei until 2027 while a tortuously long saga involving a new deal for the Nigerian forward seems close to a conclusion. Marathon sessions watching the entire extended editions of the Lord of the Rings saga on repeat wouldn’t match the tediously repetitive Osimhen epic that played out endlessly over the summer.

Multi-million moves to England and Saudi Arabia never materialised and the Lagos-born player will resume his partnership with Kvaratskhelia for a second season. The KO combination battered opponents into submission in a memorable campaign of utter dominance under coach Luciano Spalletti as the Gli Azzurri claimed a historic third title.

Osimhen was crowned the Capocannoniere and named the league’s best striker after scoring a career-best 26 Serie A goals while Kvaratskhelia was given the most valuable player award as he dazzled with 12 goals and 10 assists.

Beyond the statistics the star tandem scattered stardust across the Italian top flight and enchanted fans, both long-suffering and new, across the world with a series of breathtaking goals.

While the exits of Sandro Tonali, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Andre Onana and Rasmus Hojlund were disheartening, the loss of either Partenopei star, never mind both, would have been crushing for a league that can be legitimately considered one of the most competitive in Europe.

Although Napoli won the championship at a canter – finishing 16 points clear of Lazio in second – there is every indication their title defence will be infinitely more difficult. The left-field appointment of Rudi Garcia as Spalletti’s replacement caught everyone off guard.

How Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia adapt to Garcia’s methods and management style will be key factors in the club’s title aspirations. The Nigerian described Spalletti as a genius while Kvaratskhelia spoke fondly of the freedom the veteran tactician afforded him.

De Laurentiis stated that Garcia was hired partly as the ex-Roma coach favours the 4-3-3 formation which brought Spalletti so much success. Whether the deadly pair will be given the same creative license which allowed them to thrive last term remains to be seen.

It’s overly simplistic to suggest that the surprise factor of the Osimhen-Kvaratskhelia tandem has faded or that opposition defences will have them worked out. If anything, another year together will only help develop an understanding that bordered on telepathy at times last term.

Nobody could stop the irrepressible Nigerian as he single-handedly decimated entire backlines with his pace and pressing and left supporters open-mouthed with stupendous world-class strikes.

The former Lille player established himself as one of the finest strikers in the world as he connected with the Georgian to devastating effect. The magician from Tbilisi, who won’t be available in the opener against Frosinone due to slight muscle fatigue, left a trail of disoriented and dizzy full-backs in his wake as he excelled as both a provider and finisher. Jaw-dropping dashes featuring a mind-boggling array of twirls and pirouettes left the Napoli Tifosi in raptures.

It was understandable that Kvaratskhelia’s output dropped off in the final third of the season as fatigue set in with the title all but secured. The idea that the Georgian international will be affected by second-season syndrome after a phenomenal Serie A debut campaign seems way off the mark.

Regardless, the KO tag team will undoubtedly be even bigger targets than last season. Kvaratskhelia was intentionally hacked on more than one occasion while the fearless Osimhen was also the recipient of numerous overly robust challenges. While it will be a difficult endeavour to repeat the highs of the Scudetto campaign, don’t expect a massive drop in performances from the stellar partnership that led Napoli to the promised land for the first time in 33 years. 

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