Diego Maradona: Napoli fans chant legend’s name outside ground
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As Napoli edge closer to winning the Serie A title, having opened up an 18-point lead at the top of the table, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia finds himself in the spotlight. Few had heard of the Georgia international at the start of the season. But, having grown up idolising Cristiano Ronaldo and another Real Madrid legend in the form of Guti, he’s now forging a reputation as one of European football’s most-exciting players.
Back in the summer, Napoli knew they needed to bolster their squad to boost their chances of winning Serie A – having missed out on the title to AC Milan last season.
And they decided to bring in Kvaratskhelia, with the forward arriving from Dinmano Butami as an unknown quantity.
Fast-forward to now, however, and the ‘Georgian Messi’ is now the talk of Europe having produced yet another fine showing in the club’s 3-0 Champions League victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in midweek.
Earlier in the season, Kvaratskhelia admitted that he’d grown up idolising Ronaldo. Before then, however, Guti was his first hero.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is my idol, even if my first one was Real Madrid’s Guti,” he said back in October.
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“When I played in the streets of Tbilisi with my friends, I wore a white shirt, writing his name on the back.”
Many players idolise Ronaldo without showing signs of ever following in his superstar footsteps.
Kvaratskhelia is an exception, however, with Napoli’s wing wizard propelling them to the cusp of a first Serie A title since the days of the late, great Diego Maradona.
From his last 10 matches, he’s clocked up five assists against the likes of Juventus, Roma, Spezia and Frankfurt.
And he’s also bagged five times during that run, too, firing Napoli into the latter stages of the Champions League as well.
Overall this season, the 22-year-old has 13 goals and 15 assist stop his name from 29 outings across al competitions.
And talk of a move away from Napoli is starting to gather pace.
Christian Vieri said earlier this week that, if Kvaratskhelia moved to the Premier League with Manchester United, the ‘days of George Best would return’.
Given how Best is one of the best players in the Red Devils’ entire history, that’s quite some statement.
Newcastle have been linked, with Eddie Howe’s side having the financial muscle to potentially convince Napoli into selling.
And Real Madrid themselves are apparently showing interest, with Florentino Perez always on the lookout for a shiny new toy.
Kvaratskhelia is, however, happy at Napoli. Given their exploits on the pitch, it’s certainly easy to see why.
He has acclimatised himself well to life in Naples, showing a fondness for Luciano Sorbillo’s pizza.
Kvaratskhelia reportedly enjoys the quietness of living in the suburbs and he loves the support he receives from fans on a regular basis at the Diego Maradona Stadium.
He doesn’t do interviews because he’s afraid of having his words twisted, or misunderstood.
And he’s also unwilling to do them because he doesn’t want to get distracted from training.
There are no tattoos or piercings on Kvaratskhelia and lives modestly, making him a hero for many fans in Naples as a result.
On Thursday, the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League was made with Napoli set to lock horns with fellow Italian rivals Milan.
And all eyes will be on Kvaratskhelia and whether he can continue to be the spark for his side when that match gets under way.
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