With Napoli heading to Milan for a massive game, Dave Taylor pays homage to one of the players who can make a real impact.
Marek Hamsik has been in superb form this season, scoring nine goals and helping Napoli confirm second place in the League. He is also way ahead in the assists table with 15 to his credit and justifiably feels he is playing some of his greatest football. “I believe that this is my best campaign up until this point of my career,” he said recently.
Despite being consistently linked with some of Europe’s so-called bigger clubs Napoli’s second longest serving first teamer after Captain Paolo Cannavaro has completely bought into President Aurelio De Laurentiis’ dream. “I have purchased my own house in Naples and I feel fine,” he told the Corriere dello Sport this week. “My family are very happy here. I don't want to look too far into the future, but at the present time I am enjoying my life."
With all the speculation over Edinson Cavani’s future, it seems that at least Marek will be staying. “I’m happy to be at Napoli where we are re-writing history,” insists the Slovakian ace, who is enjoying his sixth season with the Partenopei since he signed from Brescia in July 2007. “This is the club who wanted me the most and we still have a lot to do and win.”
Marek of course is part of a bigger story, an element of an interconnected web of fans, crowds, players, officials and the entity of the club itself which helps make up an entire eco-system, especially within the San Paolo. One mercurial move from him, one quicksilver thought whipping through his slim frame and the home crowd start focusing on that same deliberation which has an exponentially positive effect on the game. The proof in the pudding is when you know that Napoli have scored almost twice as many goals at home than away.
Even Sepp Blatter agrees: “Seeing Napoli at the San Paolo is an experience everyone who loves football ought to have. In Naples, football is passion, football is a religion. I have always been touched by the warmth of the San Paolo crowd, as the Neapolitans are extraordinary fans and bring so much to their team.”
Marek certainly contributes to the fans’ enjoyment and every week not only is he the heart and the spirit of the team, but most crucially also its brain. The statistical evidence of this can be seen in his hurricane of assists, a record 15 now after he rolled the ball through for Blerim Dzemaili to score against Genoa last week. Compared to this time last season when the Slovakian international had seven, it is a real progression and it’s the same with goals, with just three more to go he can equal his previous personal best of 12 in 2009-10.
Undoubtedly Marek plays with a confidence that is only matched by his awesome authority and he can sometimes leave opposition defenders looking like players controlled by a three-year-old on a Playstation. His tactical understanding of any given game has come even more to the fore with the arrival of his midfield colleague Gokhan Inler. Today Coach Walter Mazzarri’s formation sees the Swiss ace in front of the defence in a more central role, which has relieved Marek of his previous defensive duties. This almost free role permits the Slovak to move into a three pronged attack alongside Cavani and Goran Pandev, whenever he feels it best. It also allows him to be the integral link between the forwards and the midfield and as such become the spare man who the opposition have not prepared for.
Marek is also the only Napoli player who has started every game and has successfully completed 82.3% of his passes at an average of 54.2 per game. Factor in an average of 1.4 tackles per game, 2.5 shots per game (last season 1.6) plus key passes 2.6 (1.6) per match and they are the stats of a player who is determined to leave his imprint on every game he plays in. This season they will not come much bigger than Milan. And although it will be at San Siro and not the San Paolo, Marek can still work his magic.