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Written By Onyeka Daniel

Napoli manager, Walter Mazzarri could be finding it harder than he imagined in his second return to the club as the results haven’t really been forthcoming. He won his first game against Atalanta, but has lost the next three against Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Juventus.

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Up next, he will be facing Portuguese side, Sporting Braga in the UEFA champions league. In a bizarre move, Mazzarri has admitted that Victor Osimhen may start on the bench against Braga in the Champions League after missing a training session today to attend the African Footballer of the Year Award.

The Partenopei host Braga at the Stadio Maradona on Tuesday, when they must avoid a heavy loss to qualify for the Champions League Round of 16. Even a defeat by a one-goal margin would allow the Serie A side to book a place for the knock-out phase.


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It remains to be seen If Osimhen will be included in the starting lineup as the Nigerian forward didn’t take part in a training session at Castel Volturno today as he had taken a private flight to Morocco to attend the ceremony for the African Footballer of the Year Award.

Mazzarri told Sky Sport Italia, that Osimhen “did what he had to.” “I will talk to him tomorrow and understand if he can start,” the Tuscan coach continued. “The AFCON is around the corner too, so we know we must do without him for a while, we have two good players like Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone.”

Napoli have lost four of their opening seven Serie A games at the Stadio Maradona and suffered three consecutive losses with Mazzarri in charge. For Osimhen, he was named as the CAF Men’s Player of the Year for 2023, largely thanks to his role in the Partenopei’s Serie A title win in the 2022-23 season.

Osimhen fought off competition from the likes of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi and Al-Nassr’s Sadio Mane to the title. He became the first Nigerian player to win the award since Arsenal’s Nwankwo Kanu in 1999, and is also the first active Serie A player to be crowned Africa’s player of the year since Samuel Eto’o when he was at Inter in 2010.

The Nigerian has enjoyed a calendar year full of personal and collective accolades, the most important of which was the Serie A title in 2022-23. During the title-winning campaign, Osimhen scored a league-leading 26 goals from 32 Serie A appearances, collecting the Capocannoniere award in the process, the first African player to do so.

Meanwhile…

Former Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne was recognised with an award from CONI in Campania today, after which he spoke of his love for his former club, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and aspirations of a return to the Italy national team squad. The former Partenopei mainstay spent 12 years of his career in Naples before joining MLS side Toronto on a free transfer in the summer of 2022.

He is now into the second year of his four-year contract. Insigne’s return to Italy, however, was a celebration of his success with the Italy national team during the victorious Euro 2020 campaign. “It’s a great feeling to receive this honour, I’m very proud because it shows that we have achieved something important for our country.

“I hope we can relive the same glory at the next European Championships,” Insigne told CalcioNapoli24 TV Reporters then asked about Insigne’s aspirations in relation to the national team, and whether he has had any recent conversations with CT Luciano Spaletti on that subject. “I have a good relationship with the coach,” he replied. “Injuries have of course had a big impact, but I’m always available. It’s always an honour to wear the national team shirt, and, as long as I’m still playing, that will always be my goal.

“I have sent him (Spalletti) a few texts to congratulate him on qualification, but nothing more. I always have to accept the coach’s choices.” On Napoli, and Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Braga, Insigne said: “I always hold Napoli close to my heart, because it is my city and I am the biggest Napoli fan in Canada, too. “I will always support the Azzurri, tomorrow I hope they will have a great game and that we qualify, because we deserve it for what we’ve shown in the group.”

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Then, Insigne was asked about Napoli forward Kvaratskhelia, who hasn’t quite reached the same levels of form he showed during the team’s run to the Serie A title last season. “I feel sorry for him because I’ve been there too, they have to make sure Kvara is calm, because he is Napoli’s main man.

“He has so much quality, but you have to look after him. I’ve also been there when you miss a goal and don’t win the game. But the fans will definitely support him. “Last year my former teammates did amazing things for the team and the city, they will give him support.” He further added.

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