Lorenzo Insigne had arguably one of his best starts to a season with 10 goals in his first 15 matches in all competitions. His form had many regarding him as one of Serie A’s best players at the time and subject to interest from the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea. Napoli fans were ecstatic about their hometown hero’s blisteringly hot start, with many ready to witness what seemed set to be Insigne’s greatest season with the Partenopei to date.
Things took a different turn for Lorenzo ‘Il Magnifico’, though, after the Partenopei’s 1-0 loss to Liverpool in the final round of the Champions League group stages. After that defeat, he went on a seven-game goal drought. Insigne temporarily quelled his doubters with two goals in three matches against Sampdoria and FC Zurich, but a penalty miss in a 2-1 loss to Juventus dealt a huge blow to the confidence of Napoli’s new captain and the team’s supporters.
Will Insigne ever become the big game player everyone knows he is capable of becoming? The answer to this question has been widely debated among Serie A fans, with both sides making valid points in their arguments. Those who believe Insigne is already a big game player cite his performances against Liverpool (home leg of the group stages) and PSG in the Champions League as prime examples of the 27-year-old’s ability to get the job done when it matters most. In past seasons, his performances against the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid (both of whom he scored against) in the 2016-17 Champions League campaign help Insigne’s case.
However, those who hold the opposing view claim the Neapolitan forward is unable to perform this way consistently. We often see the diminutive winger fizzle out toward the end of a season. Whether it was last year where we saw him directly contribute to only six goals in the last three months, or even now when he seemed a shell of his former self in Napoli’s 2-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates, Insigne’s inability to maintain a consistent level gives merit to the claims that he isn’t a big game player.
The aforementioned losses to Arsenal and Juventus are the most recent examples of big games Insigne has failed to leave his mark on. Additionally, Napoli’s loss against Milan in the Coppa Italia plagues his and his club’s season as well. His penalty miss against Juventus prevented his team from evening things up and, considering their momentum at the time, spurring them on to victory. Against Arsenal, Insigne had what was easily his worst performance of the campaign. Granted, the same can be said about the rest of Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but more is expected of their captain and star player.
There is a silver lining to these losses, though. Despite failing to come up big, Insigne always manages to create a moment of magic that gives his side the chance to get back into a match. With Liverpool, his signature ball over to Jose Callejon was sent flying over the goal by the Spaniard. In the first leg of the Arsenal tie, he put the ball in the perfect spot for Piotr Zielinski to earn Napoli an away goal, only for the Polish midfielder to waste the chance.
The second leg of the Europa League quarter-final with Arsenal is where he can prove his doubters wrong and regain the love of the San Paolo faithful. The match is one with major implications, as the Europa League is the Partenopei’s last opportunity at winning their first piece of silverware since December 2014.
Not only is the match a season decider for Napoli, but it could also prove pivotal for Insigne’s legacy and future at the club. Both of which, with a big performance, Lorenzo ‘Il Magnifico’ can keep intact.