Napoli’s 3-1 win against Torino on Saturday may have seen them climb back to the top of Serie A, but it was the Azzurri’s third and final goal that sparked the biggest talking point of the game.
With Inter’s surprising 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Udinese, Napoli overcame their recent run of poor results, cruising to a win at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino thanks to goals from Kalidou Koulibaly, Piotr Zielinski and, crucially, Marek Hamsik.
The Slovakian’s 115th goal for Napoli not only secured all three points for Maurizio Sarri’s side, but also moved him level with the legendary Diego Maradona in the club’s all-time scorers chart, a record that’s stood since 1991. No mean feat, especially for a player who plies his trade in the middle of the park.
Sure, it seems like records are broken every week in the footballing world, but how does Hamsik’s tally compare with Maradona’s and how relevant is it in modern football?
While one could ramble on all day about the difference in the pace, physicality and style of the game in the 80s compared with today, you’re able to read what you like in to the statistics when comparing the two.
In seven seasons, Maradona amassed his 115 goals in 259 matches for Napoli, compared with Hamsik, whose record-equalling tally came after 11 seasons and 477 appearances, almost twice that of the Argentinian striker.
Maradona’s goals helped secure two Serie A titles along with a Coppa Italia victory, while Hamsik has won just the two Coppa Italia trophies in his 11 seasons. However, Hamsik has scored five Champions League goals, three more than the 1986 World Cup winner. Again, it was a different time with weaker teams in the early stages, but also far more games to play.
I suppose my point here is that while stats are more prevalent in today’s game than they were 30 years ago, or ever have been, they still mean little when rivalling the passion and loyalty fans feel for their club and their favourite players.
There’s no denying Maradona is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of football boots. Yet, Hamsik has been one of Napoli’s best players in the last two decades and has been one of the shining lights of Italian football during his time at the Stadio San Paolo.
So, whether you’re crazy about the driving, playmaking abilities of Hamsik or you wax lyrical about the finesse and fleet feet of Maradona, whoever tops your list, you will be right. You will have the arguments for your chosen one and stats or not, they will always be a legend in your eyes.
Maradona took Napoli from southern outliers to Scudetto winners, putting them on the map in Europe and the world as well as Italy. Hamsik’s journey is more of a romantic one, resisting offers from far bigger clubs to seek success in his adopted home. It could end with the same image, of celebrating a Scudetto in the Partenopei jersey.