Marek Hamsik: Keeping Napoli Ticking
Hamsik’s Serie A career did not start at Napoli; he joined Brescia as a seventeen year old in 2004 from his home country Slovakia. Brescia were relegated the following year, but this gave Hamsik the chance to flourish in Serie B.
Even though Brescia failed to gain promotion in the next two years, Hamsik shone and quickly became one of the most promising players in Italy.
Hamsik got his big break when he joined the newly promoted Serie A team Napoli in 2007 for a fee believed to be in the region of €5 million. The Slovakian captain then made the transition into top flight football look easy with a string of great performances resulting in him claiming the Serie A young footballer player of the year in 2008.
As Napoli grew so did Hamsik and as part of the “three tenors” alongside Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hamsik helped his side to impress football fans both on the Italian and European stage.
Despite the departure of Lavezzi to Paris Saint Germain in the summer, Hamsik has improved as a player and is seemingly leading Napoli towards a serious title challenge. But what is the main reason for Hamsik’s impressive displays this season?
It would be too simplistic to make a sweeping general statement that the only reason is the exit of Lavezzi. However the departure of the Argentinian forward has seen a fundamental shift in the role of Hamsik in the Napoli starting eleven. Before he was seen as more of a box to box midfielder however with Napoli needing a creative spark, Walter Mazzarri the manager has pushed the Slovakian further forward into the trequartista role.
This has allowed Hamsik an almost free role in the team where he can pop up alongside either the two other midfielders (normally Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami) or the two forwards (normally Cavani and Lorenzo Insigne or Goran Pandev). He becomes the spare man in Napoli’s attacks as he is always on the move, always wanting the ball. Hamsik has begun to make this position his own as his ability to not only to link up the play but also to find space in-between the opposition’s defence and midfield is second to none.
All this has meant that Hamsik has played a bigger part in Napoli going forward and he has become the main man in their team. The stats back this up. Napoli have scored forty five goals this season in Serie A and Hamsik has either scored or assisted twenty of them, giving him an involvement percentage of a staggering of 44%. Another reason for his success this season is the Slovakian’s fitness.
Over recent years, Hamsik has struggled with minor injuries keeping him out the side for weeks rather than months. However this has disrupted his progress and that of Napoli. In 2012/13, Hamsik has played in every single Serie A match for Napoli ensuring that there has been great continuity not only in his own performances but that of Napoli’s also.
“Hamsik was my best buy, we signed him for just €5.5m and it is today difficult to accurately say how much more he is worth”. The words of the former Napoli and current Atalanta director Pierpaolo Marino who was responsible for bringing the Slovakian to Napoli almost six years ago.
It is impossible to put a value on Marek Hamsik for Napoli. He has become their linchpin and is vital to their chances of claiming a first scudetto in twenty three years. Although constantly rumoured with the biggest clubs around Europe, Hamsik has always remained grounded claiming, “I’m happy to be at Napoli where we are re-writing history, this is the club who wanted me the most and we still have a lot to do and win.”
It appears that Hamsik’s love affair with Napoli is set to continue, to the delight of the Partenopei.
Follow Richard Hinman on Twitter: @RichardHinman