“I dоn’t want to leave Bologna this month. I preferred to stay here and continue with a growing project until June.” That was Simone Verdi’s confession shortly after increasing reports stated that he is almost certain to join league leaders Napoli before the end of January. The Milan youth product was highlighted as the Partenopei’s No. 1 target for the current transfer window, as Verdi’s name was listed ahead of the likes of another ex-Rossonero Gerard Deulofeu and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lucas Moura.
And while the 25-year-old’s talents are well known among the regular Serie A followers, even the majority of them are uncertain if and how the Bologna man could enhance Napoli’s game and improve their Scudetto chances. After all where does a player from a mid-table side fit in a squad fighting for the Scudetto and possibly the Europa League?
When at his best, Verdi is a tricky dribbler who is remarkably two-footed, capable of producing plenty of damage both when shooting from distance and from set plays. Although the Italian can cover almost any position in attack, he is most comfortable when playing as a right winger. This means that, if he were to join Napoli, he would be competing with Jose Callejon for the spot.
Perhaps this is what swayed Verdi’s decision to turn down the move, as Callejon has started every single game for Napoli this season. The Bologna man has the potential to prove himself at a bigger side, but perhaps the Partenopei mid-campaign would not have given him a real chance to shine.
With six league goals and five assists for Bologna, Verdi is already involved in more goals than Callejon this term, as the former Real Madrid man has matched his goal tally, but has provided just two assists. Averaging three shots per game, the Italian is shooting almost twice as often as the Napoli star, whose average is just 1.7. Since both players have scored the same amount of league goals, this clearly shows that Callejon is the more clinical of the two, as his shooting accuracy is quite impressive at 67%. Verdi’s accuracy is just 46%.
Callejon is averaging just 0.3 successful dribbles per game, which is nowhere near Verdi’s 2.3. This reveals another trend in both players’ styles, as the Bologna man is his side’s main source of creativity, which means that he often needs to dribble past opponents in order to create a good position for himself.
On the other hand, Callejon’s main weapon is his extremely smart off the ball movement, as he often takes advantage of through balls and crosses provided by his teammates – usually Lorenzo Insigne to the back post. Compared to the Napoli winger, Verdi shoots much more often from distance, as he is averaging 1.9 shots from outside the box, while Callejon’s average is just 0.3.
Considering all that, Verdi clearly offered a different skill set than the more composed and disciplined Callejon, who often prefers to play a simple one-touch passing game and look for opportunities inside the penalty area. The Italian’s dribbling and shooting stats are more similar to Lorenzo Insigne’s, which could’ve come in very handy for Maurizio Sarri.
While Verdi wouldn’t stand a chance of matching Insigne’s impact for this Napoli side when it comes to morale, he could have his say when it comes to technical abilities. The Partenopei have often struggled when their fans’ favourite is not in the starting XI, as Dries Mertens’ role as a striker limits his creative influence on the game and, as Callejon’s stats show, he is not the typical provider type of winger. That’s when a player like Verdi would become useful, as his ability from set pieces, dribbling past opponents and shooting from distance can be a menace for any defence.
There is no doubt that currently Verdi is far from a finished article. However, the 25-year-old already has a significant Serie A experience and has shown that he can produce when his team needs him to. But would he have been happy coming off the bench or playing only in the Europa League?
Ultimately, Verdi made a very brave, but probably correct, career choice to continue his development at Bologna. His arrival would undoubtedly have benefited Napoli, giving different skills and options to the attack, but to the detriment of his own development.