“Let’s rewrite history … the dream continues!” said Napoli’s Twitter page.
And no wonder – 18 points clear at the top of the Serie A table, the Partenopei is cruising to its first domestic league title since the heady days of Diego Maradona in the late 1980s.
But Luciano Spalletti’s team doesn’t seem set on just dominating Italian football; Napoli is also turning up the heat on Europe’s elite.
On Wednesday, Napoli comfortably beat Eintracht Frankfurt – last year’s Europa League winners – 3-0 in the Champions League, thanks to goals from two of its stalwarts, a brace from Victor Osimhen and a penalty from Piotr Zieliński.
In doing so, it advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-0 victory on aggregate over two legs. The seven other teams in Friday’s draw for the last eight are probably hoping not be paired against Napoli.
‘We have no limits’
Nobody expected this season. Not even the most hardened of Napoli fans could have predicted that after 26 games of the season, the team would be easing to its first title in over 30 years, banishing years of heartache and falling short.
However, thanks to the previously unheralded Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, a central European midfielder axis – Zieliński and Stanislav Lobotka – and the prolific Nigerian forward Osimhen, Napoli has become one of Europe’s top teams playing an exciting brand of attacking football.
The 64-year-old Spalletti is not known for being a serial winner, but his Napoli team’s attacking verve has consistently overwhelmed opposition with a majesty fit for champions in waiting.
It has only failed to score in three games this season in the league, scoring two or more goals on 20 occasions.
Osimhen is Serie A’s top scorer with 19 goals while Kvaratskhelia – who is playing in his first season for Napoli – has scored 11 and provided nine assists in the league. The Georgian’s thrilling performances have earned him comparisons to Maradona and the nickname “Kvaradona.”
Combined with a stingy defense – lead by summer-signing Kim Min-jae – which has kept a league-leading 13 clean sheets, Napoli’s rivals have been playing catch up all season.
Napoli’s Champions League campaign began with an emphatic 4-1 win over last year’s runners up Liverpool in the opening group game, scoring four in 47 blistering minutes, with Osimhen also missed a penalty.
Spalletti’s team went from strength to strength in the Champions League, recording more impressive wins against Rangers and Ajax both home and away.
Excluding the final group game against Liverpool, which Napoli lost 2-0 having already guaranteed its qualification to the last 16 round, the Italian team’s first five matches in the section ended in five wins, as the Partenopei scored 20 goals and conceded four.
“We want to enjoy the moment and look ahead. It’s a great win,” Osimhen said after beating Frankfurt. “We are rewriting the history of this club. We keep dreaming, we have no limits!”