It was a night when the Italians put on another show, it was a night when the mentality and performance levels were at the top level and it was a night for Lorenzo Insigne. Italy strolled past Bosnia-Herzegovina, they finished top of the table and go through to the final four. This night saw majestic displays from many of the team, all of them fighting for one cause. The celebrations at the end saw them dancing whilst video calling Roberto Mancini who is still self-isolating. The team seems to have everything right now, including its star man.
There was a moment when Nicolo Barella sprayed a diagonal ball fully 40 yards with pace. He had seen the run from Insigne and picked him out as if dispatching a bullet from a snipers rifle. As Insigne intelligently ran in behind the defence there was still much to do and yet, he managed to cushion the ball down with the outside of his foot. It was a moment when you knew the players were playing with such confidence, that everything will come off.
Insigne was in this mood all game; he mischievously rolled a ball to Domenico Berardi from a free kick so the winger could try to strike the ball with his left foot. It was an audacious plan and it did not work out, but the way that Lorenzo has been playing for Italy has seen him play with a courage you rarely see in the modern game. The Neapolitan assisted Andrea Belotti with a delicate cross and throughout the game; he was running at defenders with pace and creativity.
After the game he spoke with humility, he was clearly the man of the match. He had not scored but after an amazing first touch, he hit the post. “The coach wants us to play our football wherever we go and that is the mentality we’ve really embraced. This is a jersey to be honoured every time and we give our all for Italy.” This was evident in his game as you could see that, he believed in his coach’s words and seemed to be enjoying himself.
He went on to speak about not having the best rapport with some Napoli fans and the media but the way he spoke was as if this was all behind him and he could now play with a renewed confidence. He was also very appreciative of Gennaro Gattuso and the support he had from him, saying he was improving him physically and tactically. That is high praise for a player who has played under the likes of Maurizio Sarri, Zdenek Zeman, Rafael Benitez, Walter Mazzarri and Carlo Ancelotti
The boy who was once deemed too small to play football certainly seems to have been working on his physique. This season he has scored twice in four excellent Serie A games for Napoli and created three assists in four games for his country. Perhaps the reason for all of this is because he is happy. Sarri once said of Insigne when asked why he was playing well: “It’s simple, he believes in himself. He has shrugged off the insecurities and blues that can come from being the main man for his home town club”. This makes sense, especially when you look at his words after the game. He talks of not being worried about fans and media and the results are showing.
The levels that he is playing at should encourage fans and coaches alike to go out of the way to make sure he is care free and playing as if at school. He is 29-years of age now and potentially at the peak of his career. Napoli and Italy can look at him to help them possibly win some much-coveted silverware and in the process, he will entertain.
The world in an imperfect place and Lorenzo’s performances may make the expectant and passionate Neapolitans expect even more from him but let us hope this is not the case. Watching him in this recent International break and in Serie A so far, has allowed everyone to enjoy just what a special talent he is. He is playing some of the best football of his career, proving that there is another little guy lighting up Naples and Italy.
Words Richard Hall