Non-stop action. Great goals. Controversies galore. Sensational passes. Unreal drama. European football is rarely short of talking points after a football weekend, but with so much going on it can often be difficult to focus on the most important moments.
ESPN India tries to highlight a moment from all the action in Europe’s top 5 leagues (league action only) that lit up the weekend.
This weekend, despite many deserving candidates, we chose the Khvicha Kvaratskhelia strike in Napoli win 2-0 against Atalantawhich extended their lead at the top of the Serie A table to 18 points.
Violence. Chaos. Magnificence.
In modern soccer, those three words are rarely used together. Take the first two, and most believe that the third is the last thing to go with it.
In Europe’s big leagues, magnificence comes as a natural byproduct of order and discipline: whether it’s the technical ability to retain possession or the learned ability to identify pressure factors and go for it. Even the messiest-looking games seem to have an innate order to things. Buried intuition, instilled restraint. After all, that’s what makes teams work, what gives you goals and wins games.
No one seems to have told Khvicha Kvaratskhelia any of this. Look at everything about him: low socks, floating somewhere just above the ankles. Jersey hanging loosely from his frame, like he’s going to meet his friends in a retro ’90s number. A style of running so languid it makes him look downright lazy. A need to give several small touches where one should have been more than enough. An irrational hatred of making the pass (or move) simple and obvious. A desire to make you, the viewer, say ‘Wow! What in the…! What did you just do? every time he receives the ball.
Now, look at what almost always turns out… pure, undiluted magnificence. They love him so much in the city of Naples, that they have done him the greatest possible honor: they call him Kvaradona.
On Saturday, he showed the world (once again) why.
It started with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa intimidating the usually intimidating Duvan Zapata just inside the Napoli half. Zapata’s intensity then led to Ederson’s block and interception that robbed Atalanta of possession.
The ball flew past to Victor Osimhem, who held off Merih Demiral with ludicrous ease, turned it inside out (while still running forward) and then passed it to her left. To Kvaratskhelia.
When he received it, he was just outside the Atalanta box. Three nice little touches later, he was on the line, the edge of the box, moving to his right. His next touch was accompanied by a generous drop to the left shoulder, a move that sent Rafael Toloi, Demiral and Giorgio Scalvini running to put out a fire that never lit.
Pause the frame right now and it’s a masterpiece in chaos: Kvaratskhelia leaning to his left, the ball tied to his laces, all three defenders in various stages of descent as they try to block, another three in the distance. Atalanta’s wite watching, too far away to affect the outcome.
Kvaratskhelia’s next touch was to bring the ball to his right again, a move done in an inexplicable combination of speed and slow motion, like Neo in The Matrix. One more touch (because more touches seem to make him happy), and he was off her feet. Pause again, now.
The three defenders in front of him are completely reeling. The doorman has no idea what’s coming. The three pursuers have become four and are closing in fast. Two of them are close at hand.
Hit! The ball crashed into the roof of the Atalanta net. The primitive roar of the Diego Armando Maradona stadium followed a split second later. One hour to go, 1-0 Napoli.
𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖 𝙜𝙤𝙖𝙡, 𝙆𝙫𝙖𝙧𝙖 🔥🇬🇪 #NapoliAtalanta pic.twitter.com/RlPQeO0Q62
– Serie A League (@SerieA_EN) March 12, 2023
Amir Rrahmani would make it two a few minutes later, into an Eljif Elmas corner, but it was all done and dusted by the time Kvaratskhelia broke through the Atalanta defence. It was one of those moves, one of those goals, that he yelled, ‘know your place.’ This is not everything.
He had been signed for ten million, from Dinamo Batumi in his native Georgia, where he had been playing after leaving Russian club Rubin Kazan on a free contract (annulled after the Russian invasion of Ukraine). No one in Europe had considered it, but in the end Napoli and Luciano Spalletti did.
There are already 11 goals and nine assists in the League for him. He is now the symbol of resistance. Napoli haven’t won Serie A in over three decades, but as of Matchday 26, they lead Serie A by a whopping 18 points; no one else has been on the same PIN code in qualifying or on the courts.
And they are doing it their own way, the Kvaratskhelia way which also happens to be the Neapolitan way: all mayhem, mayhem, fun and magnificence.