It was fitting that the Nigeria international's goal delivered a first title in 33 years to Naples, as he more than anyone else has carried the Azzurri to greatness
The mammoth lead Napoli had built up over the course of the entire campaign meant being crowned Serie A champions was only a matter of time, but il Partenopei certainly tried their best to make it interesting.
Naples is, after all, a one-club city that has not tasted title success for more than three decades. The lancing of that abscess was never going to be without pain, even if only in the form of dragging out the inevitable. They got there in the end though, and it was fitting that it was the boot of Victor Osimhen that delivered it, bringing the smoke and the noise in Friuli, setting off a thousand pyrotechnics at the foot of Vesuvius.
It was catharsis for Naples, but also for Osimhen, their totem pole no.9 who is the walking embodiment of that underdog city, heart on his sleeve and hunger in his eyes. His first league title in European football was richly deserved, not just for his own performances, but for what he had been denied.
Lille famously won Ligue 1 in 2021, the season following a departure Osimhen did not push for but agreed to in order to further Les Dogues spending power. Had he left Napoli along with the old guard (as some – including this writer – suggested he should), he could have missed out on this as well, turning misfortune into precedent.
Then again, would this even be a thing without him? The Scudetto is his triumph more so than anyone else's, much as some of the media have attempted to position Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as the central figure. The Georgian may have, by virtue of sobriquet, inherited the Maradona crown, but as the stakes have been raised and Napoli have hurtled toward their destiny, Kvara has noticeably winced, his final third of the campaign failing to mirror the impact of the first two; it is Osimhen who has spread his arms wide and invited the impact, icy splash and all, even when his momentum was cut short by injury to his abductor.
This may seem pedantic, but it is an important point to emphasise, especially as denying Osimhen the credit his impact demands is in danger of becoming a theme. At the Under-17 World Cup in 2015, as his goals powered a functional Nigeria side to a fifth success, it was nevertheless Kelechi Nwakali who was awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball.
This was not a judgement unique to FIFA either; the popular view was that the midfielder was the cream of that particular crop, a perception buttressed by Nwakali's immediate move to Premier League club Arsenal in the aftermath. Osimhen, by contrast, moved to Bundesliga club Wolfsburg. For one, the red carpet was rolled out; for the other, a wading through the muck.
That their paths have diverged so sharply from expectation – the anointed one failing so spectacularly to fulfil his potential while the less heralded one has shot to the stars – just illustrates the volatility of youth development. It also paints a picture: talent, by itself, is not enough. Nwakali had everything break his way early on, but is now something of a footnote in the bowels of Spain’s second tier, while Osimhen did it the hard way, and has reaped the ultimate satisfaction.
He may not immediately realise it, carried away with the euphoria of the moment, but Osimhen now has the world at his feet. There has been no greater African impact in Italy since George Weah and, for all his accolades, the Liberian never actually powered AC Milan to title success in the same way.
Also, when Weah won the Ballon D'Or, the conditions were peculiar in the utmost, a dense stew of circumstance that is unlikely to repeat again: there was no international competition in 1995, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov endured difficult campaigns with Barcelona, leaving midway through the year, while Louis van Gaal’s Ajax were so geared toward the collective that no individual stood out.
To repeat such a feat in the modern game would be a whole other level of impact, especially with the rise of the likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. That really is the only height to scale now, and is really only possible with a real superstar vehicle (in the form of an elite club) behind him. That really is a consideration for the coming years though, especially as the 24-year-old rounds into his final form; in the mean, Osimhen has delivered the Holy Grail, and breathed vitality into Italy’s forgotten south.
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