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In Focus: Rangers can't be caught Napping by Georgian sensation Kvara
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Matthew Storey
LiveScore
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has been in stunning form for Napoli this term
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has been in stunning form for Napoli this term

Napoli have a new star in town and his name is Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The Georgia international has taken Serie A by storm after moving from Dinamo Batumi for a paltry £9million in the summer.

As well as four goals and an assist in the league, he set up Napoli’s third in their hugely impressive 4-1 win over Liverpool last week.

Now Rangers must be wary of him ahead of their Champions League encounter at Ibrox tonight.

Bargain buy

Kvara was a Rubin Kazan player at the start of 2022 but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw his contract suspended.

He moved to Batumi and netted eight times in 11 games before Napoli made their move.

Napoli director Cristiano Giuntoli said: "The first time I watched Khvicha in action was during the lockdown. 

"He was playing for Rubin Kazan, but they wanted €30m, so we immediately ended negotiations. We were chasing Victor Osimhen at the time, so we couldn’t spend that much, but he remained in my thoughts. 

"When the war in Ukraine began, he returned to Georgia to Dinamo Batumi, so we rushed there with a contract and signed him for €10m.

"We were quicker than Roma, Juventus and Real Sociedad. He’s always been on our radar."

Quick start

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's shot map shows he has not been shy of trying his luck so far this season
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's shot map shows he has not been shy of trying his luck so far this season

Even though they have been monitoring the Georgian for a couple of years, Napoli would not have imagined him hitting the ground running quite like this.

A goal and assist on debut against Verona was followed with a brace in the 4-0 thrashing of Monza.

One of those strikes against Monza was a beauty as Kvara opened the scoring by finding the top corner with a bending strike from 25 yards out.

There have even been comparisons to Naples legend Diego Maradona with some penning the nickname "Kvaradona", not that he thinks the association is warranted.

Kvara said: "Great responsibility comes with being mentioned in the same sentence as him. 

"I can't come close to Maradona, but I will give my all to be a big player for this club. Obviously, I like the nickname."

Joy to watch

Veteran Russian boss Yuri Semin recently said: "Let’s not forget that the Georgians are well accustomed to skill. In the days of the USSR, they were called the Brazilians of the Soviet Union."

And that is certainly true of Kvara, whose unique dribbling skill, where he almost does not lift his head, has made him a joy to watch.

His 28 take-ons attempted this term rank second in Serie A, while he has already created eight chances, of which two were big chances.

Only Ciro Immobile has had more than his nine shots on target, with Marko Arnautovic (six) the only player to have found the net more often.

New-look Napoli

Napoli fans have quickly taken Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to their hearts
Napoli fans have quickly taken Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to their hearts

It was not clear what sort of a side Napoli would be this term after a transformative summer.

Lorenzo Insigne, Kalidou Koulibaly and Dries Mertens all left the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, having made 1,148 appearances for the club between them.

Kvara was one of nine new signings as boss Luciano Spalletti looked to reshape the squad one season into his tenure.

That is one of the reasons it has been so easy for the famously fervent Napoli crowd to take to him — they were looking for a new hero.

Rangers beware

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has enough on his plate after a woeful week for Rangers saw them thrashed by Celtic and Ajax.

And much of his game plan will be based around keeping the Georgian sensation quiet.

Ex-Gers striker Marco Negri, whose time at Ibrox was his only experience of football outside Italy, sent them a warning.

Negri said: "He’s on fire. It’s been a bit of a surprise as no one expected this from him but he’s the Serie A Player of the Month and is playing with joy and confidence. 

"He's young but looks like a veteran. He started out as a defender but has moved up the pitch and really has a strong sense for goals. So Rangers must be aware."

And not just Rangers — anyone coming up against the 21-year-old should be switched on to his talent from now on.

Tags

SSC NapoliChampions LeagueRangers
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