A bright star has started to shine in Naples, as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia announces himself to the world after moving to Italy in the summer from Rubin Kazan. The 21-year-old moved to Gil Azurri for a total of €10 million and has fast become one of the hottest prospects on the continent.
Kvaratskhelia was born February 2001 in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Georgian started his career at Dinamo Tbilisi in 2017 before moving to second tier side Rustavi and in 2018, people started to recognise Kvaratskhelia’s potential and subsequently he was mentioned among some of the best rising stars across Europe. Just three days after his 18th birthday, Kvaratskhelia moved to Russian Premier League team Lokomotiv Moscow on loan. His loan spell in Russia expired and he returned back to Rustavi but Rubin Kazan came in for his signature in the summer of 2019 and secured his services. Between the summer of 2019 and 2020, Kvaratskhelia’s overall value had quintupled and many clubs began to convey interest in him but the Red-Greens managed to hold onto him. During the 2020-21 campaign, the winger won the Player of the Month award four times and was the standout player in the Russian league as he continued to develop and mould into an awfully effective wide player.
Unfortunately, in March of this year the Russian Premier League was forced to a halt after the invasion of Ukraine and so any players that were contracted to Russian clubs could terminate their deal and move elsewhere. This is what Kvaratskhelia did, he moved back to Georgia and signed for Dinamo Batumi. The 21-year-old had an instant impact with him scoring eight goals and supplying two assists – he also won Player of the Month for April and July.
Kvaratskhelia’s future was always going to be up in the air and murmurings of a move to a bigger European club began to materialise. Italian side Napoli eventually signed the Georgian winger in July 2022 for €10 million. Following the departure of Lorenzo Insigne, Kvaratskhelia had to withstand the pressure of filling the Italian’s boots. Napoli faced Hellas Verona in their first league match of the season and ran out 5-2 victors with Kvaratskhelia scoring once and picking up two assists. As he crashed the ball into the back of the net in Verona, the travelling Napoli fans rose to acclaim their new hero. It has been a blistering start to the campaign for the winger with him registering 12 goal contributions in just 13 games. The Georgian has been centrifugal to Napoli’s unbeaten start to the season. The Partenopei are yet to taste defeat after 13 competitive games and the signings of Kvaratskhelia, Kim Min-Jae and Mathias Oliviera have propelled the side from Naples to a different level.
The Role for Kvaratskhelia
So far this season, the 21-year-old has been deployed as a left winger with the aim to occupy the half space. After parting company with Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, it was time for Napoli to build in a different direction with the transfer focus being young players who could impact the first team. The Georgian adds tenacity and intensity to the Italian side whilst displaying sound ball progression. In contrast to the modern day winger, Kvaratskhelia opts to be more direct and create chances from his own technical work – Kvaratskhelia tends to take more shots than any other player in the Napoli team per game.
He can deliver from wider areas also to the likes of Victor Osimhen or Giacomo Raspadori but that is not his strongest point and instead he prefers to hold onto possession and beat defenders 1v1. His directness adds a different dimension to wing play and adds value in and around the opposition’s defensive third, where he can gain advantages and shoot. He displays excellent intelligence from the left and makes himself available to his teammates which positively impacts upon the sides ability to progress the ball.
Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti’s main focus is to move the ball forward as soon as possible and to do that you need progressive ball carriers. The 63-year-old manager has achieved this with the likes of Matteo Politano, Kvaratskhelia and Piotr Zielinski. The frequently used 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 allows for the wide players to remain high and wide and become an outlet which suits the Georgian’s style of play with his focus on creativity or goal scoring.
Technical Capacity and Ball Progression
The 21-year-old’s technical prowess is what makes his movement so unpredictable and so hard to defend. His intelligent movement draws defenders out of position and as defenders try to stop him, his composed dribbling ability allows him to beat his marker and carry the ball forward with no complications. Kvaratskhelia’s football intelligence is so pivotal in how Napoli build through the thirds – his movement drags defenders away from their supposed defensive area and allows the likes of Zielinski and Frank Zambo-Anguissa to move into the space opened up by the wingers movement.
One of Kvaratskhelia’s outstanding dribbling traits is his directness, with him achieving six progressive carries per90 and creating six goal creating actions per90. As he carries the ball through the pitch, it opens up space in small pockets and allows for tight intricate play which suits the majority of the Napoli forwards. For such a young wide player, Kvaratskhelia’s composure is something to be admired, with him completing more than five dribbles per90 in all competitions.
The Georgian’s technical ability and spatial awareness are hugely beneficial to the Napoli side and even if he cannot be directly involved in the goal, his movement will free up space for others and create a lot of goal scoring opportunities. There are still some things that he needs to iron out in terms of tactical knowledge of the game but that will come with time and experience but as of now the 21-year-old is one of the hottest prospects on the continent.