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Higuain can be Napoli's modern day Maradona

What do you get when you put Napoli and an Argentinian player together? 'A Scudetto', many Napoli supporters would say, in reference of course to Diego Armando Maradona who last played for Napoli in 1991.

Bologna FC v SSC Napoli - Serie A

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Maradona was the star of the team which claimed their only two Serie A league titles in 1987 and 1990. It is a long time ago for the city which is often incorrectly stereotyped as all pizza, volcano, crime and uncollected garbage.

Naples of course as a city is so much more cultured and fascinating than many tourists believe, and winning a Scudetto requires much more than just one Argentinian player, even if that player was Maradona.

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A poignant moment for Maradona and the city of Naples came in the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-final when at Naples’ San Paolo Stadium, Argentina eliminated Italy on penalties.

The city was torn between the strong bond patriotic to the homeland and their love for Maradona. A famous banner at the ground on that night said: “Maradona: Naples loves you, but Italy is our country.”

Napoli’s current Argentinian star is Gonzalo Higuain. He wasn't even born when Napoli won their first Scudetto in May 1987, and while he isn't Maradona, he is certainly proving to be the talisman of this season’s team.

Maradona was a once-in-a-lifetime player who led a rather ordinary team to success beyond their wildest dreams, while Higuain is an extremely talented player in a very decent and balanced side this season.

Dries Martens, Pepe Reina, Adriano Henrique, Marques Allan, Marek Hamsik, Jose Callejon, Manolo Gabbiadini and Lorenzo Insigne, to name just a few, are testimony to that.

Even though Napoli lost to Bologna last week when they were clearly expected to win, it was Higuain who scored their two late goals - for the superstitious they were scored in the 87th and 90th minutes, matching the years of Napoli’s Scudetto successes.

Higuain is the leading goalscorer in Serie A this season with 14 so far.

So the burning question is can Napoli win their third Scudetto, and give Higuain the chance to measure up to Maradona?

Perhaps that level will never be on par with Maradona in the hearts and minds of the older Neapolitans, but it will be, for younger generation, a great reason to adore and remember another Argentinian.

In the words of Pino Daniele, Naples’ most famous singer-songwriter of the modern era who passed away in January this year, E tu sai ca nun si sule” - it is place which is not alone.

And if Higuain fires Napoli to the Scudetto, Naples will be joined in celebration across the country and across the globe by the thousands worldwide with Neapolitan heritage who have migrated to places afar.

Joe Russo is a football writer for Australian-based Italian newspapers La Fiama and Il Globo.


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3 min read
Published 10 December 2015 at 11:56am
By Joe Russo