Wednesday April 9 2014
World Cup Squad Selector: Insigne

Despite being a player of great individual skill, Jeremy Lim asks if Lorenzo Insigne’s difficulties at Napoli are a concern ahead of the World Cup.

A fantasista of yesteryear, Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne is one of the few remaining of his kind. His flamboyance and trickery could turn out to be the missing ingredient in Italy’s bid for World Cup glory, even as the 22-year-old goes through a mixed term at the San Paolo.

It hasn’t been easy following in the lineage of Diego Maradona and Gianfranco Zola for the fledgling Insigne. The native of Naples has been denied a sheltered existence at his boyhood club while coming to grips with Rafael Benitez’s 4-2-3-1 this season. “At Napoli if you’re a striker and you don’t score, then you’re nobody. With Benitez I am called to act as a winger and this means more sacrifice,” Insigne has felt obliged to explain.

In fact, the pacy attacker craves getting in on the action: “Of course I won’t disguise that I’d prefer to play closer to the goal. I was accustomed to playing in a 4-3-3 with Zdenek Zeman at Pescara.” The reference comes automatically. After all, it had been in Zemanlandia that Insigne showcased his true mettle. The Czech first appeared to unearth a raw gem at his beloved Foggia, where Insigne banged in 19 goals in 33 appearances.

Another year and a step up to Serie B followed as his 18 strikes during Pescara’s successful promotion campaign thrust the precocious talent right under the spotlight. Drafted in back at Napoli to replace the departed Ezequiel Lavezzi, Insigne endured a marginalised existence with Walter Mazzarri before being tipped to play a starring role under the incoming Benitez.

But despite weighing in with nine assists so far in standout performances against Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and Juventus, getting involved at the business end still has not come quite regularly enough. “The Coach asks us wide men to help the defence and I try to work for the squad, which means I am a little less sharp in front of goal,” he has cited.

Dispense with menial tactical tasks however, and like all fantasisti Insigne shines. Unshackled in a free role on the left at the European Under-21 Championships last summer, the pint-sized forward terrorised the Azzurrini’s opponents via his low centre of gravity, silky changes of pace, free-kick ability and overall knack for the unpredictable.

Recent friendly tests indicate senior Italy lack a player of Insigne’s ilk aside from Andrea Pirlo - someone who can transform the outcome of a game through the drop of a shoulder, or a sublime set-piece. The effervescent dribbler would add great variety and mystique to the Azzurri’s approach should Cesare Prandelli opt for a 4-3-3 setup. A prospective reunification with former Pescara teammate and fellow World Cup hopeful Ciro Immobile is also on the cards, ensuring the Coach has a prolific partnership ready made at his disposal in Manaus.

Like recent predecessors Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero, Insigne’s flair play can be an ace concealed in Italy’s arsenal this June. The one-of-a-kind starlet is well placed to carry on Calcio’s long-standing tradition with fantasisti.

Have your say...
A 4-3-3 with Insigne, Immobile, and Cerci would be awesome.
on the 7th May, 2014 at 4:55pm
Insigne needs to go to the World Cup! I don't see anyone in Italy's attack who plays in that sort of creative role. I think playing him and Rossi behind Balotelli would work well.
on the 1st May, 2014 at 3:26pm
must go in the place of rossi who i doubt will be fit or ready. can renew his partnership with immobile too. Had a good season but not scored enough due to where Benitez plays him. However he has made a good few assists and scares defences with his trickery. Not a bad taker of free kicks either although that will be left to pirlo. Runs and works a lot which will be needed in the heat of Brazil which he might be use to playing in Naples (although not as humid).
on the 10th April, 2014 at 10:01am
I think there is room in the squad for Insigne even if it means replacing Cassano or Totti. Insigne and Cerci are the closest things Italy has to wingers. Really may come down to whether Prandelli uses a 4312 or 433/ 4231.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 10:59pm
A lot of people have been saying he hasn't a great year that true but he's always causing problems. He has great speed and agility, put him on about 20min and watch him run rings around tried defenders
on the 9th April, 2014 at 8:45pm
Yes, no maybe so. Ill leave it up to Prandelli, I think Insigne can play as a left attacking midfielder or left winger.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 7:44pm
Insigne has great quality and can and does run the whole game for Napoli and given Prandelli's concern with the condition of the players and the heat and humidity in Brazil Insigne must go.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 6:07pm
He is a great talent, but hasn't made his complete breakthrough yet. Given that Prandelli won't change tactics last minute, there will be no space for him. Italy will play either 3-5-2 or 4-3-1-2. Both not really suited to Lorenzo who might play a crucial role in the squad for 2016. In Brasil the strikers will be Balotelli-Cerci with Destro-Immobile backups. Cassano hopefully in the role of last 30 mins Joker, when defenses start getting tired. That's the offensive lineup in my view.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 5:49pm
Too young and not having a great year. At the start of the year I would have said yes but now nope.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 5:48pm
He is a dwarf, but a talented one with great ability around the edges of the box to make defences suffer. He can play in 4231(he has put in some great Napoli performances this year) and 433 and I see no reason, the way Benitez is widening out his abilities, why he cannot be in the squad. Remember he has played against quality in the Cl and proved his worth, he is a very good card for coming on after 65 min. A spark of real energy and pace that otherwise may be lacking in the team
on the 9th April, 2014 at 3:56pm
I like him alot, he's a hot prospect and definetly to be considered for the Euro qualifiers. But if he's going to be considered as a forward I would rather have Cassano and Cerci ahead of him for the World Cup as they're on better form. However, if Rossi cannot recover in time or show any decent form I would consider him then becasue persoanlly I would take 6 forwards.

Perhaps he could be included as one of the Midfielders as he plays as a winger in Benitez's system?
on the 9th April, 2014 at 12:23pm
Some of these young players get bad advice from their managers. Insigne, being smaller,a bit limited, needs to play in the right system to perform his best.

A player like him should understand that if a system (4-2-3-1) doesn't suit him and never will, there's no point staying at your 'boyhood' club and throwing away your career.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 11:33am
I get the feeling this guy will do great for Italy, He was real good in the u21 last year. He could be one of those players who performs better for the national team instead of his club team. I think he should be given the chance to play let him run riot instead of taking Cassano.
on the 9th April, 2014 at 11:05am

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