Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti has invoked the memory of club legend Diego Maradona after watching his side beat Ajax 6-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Italian side fell behind early in the game after a ricocheted goal from Mohammed Kudus but responded by demolishing the hosts with an impressive performance.
Goals from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Piotr Zielinski, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Giovanni Simeone completed a fine brace from Giacomo Raspadori to silence the Johan Cruijff Arena and maintain Napoli’s 100 per cent start to this season’s Champions League campaign.
“We played a great game. We have shown what we are capable of. Even Maradona would have been proud of us,” Spalletti told reporters after the game.
Maradona, who died in 2020, is never far from the minds of Napoli fans after inspiring the club during their most successful era.
The club have not won a league title since 1987 and 1990, when Maradona was at his peak, but the performance in Amsterdam has fans dreaming of a new golden age.
Spalletti, however, is trying to keep his feet on the ground for his side despite an unbeaten start to Serie A.
“A match does not change your life. It was an excellent performance. It’s very nice to win like that, but now we have to think about the next game. There are teams in Serie A that are doing very well,” he added.
While Maradona was the star of his generation, Georgian striker Kvaratskhelia might just be the star of this one.
The 21-year-old, who scored his first Champions League goal against Ajax, joined the club this season after a brief stint with Georgian side Dinamo Batumi.
He had previously impressed Russian side Rubin Kazan but his contract was put on hold amid the Ukraine invasion.
His pace and attacking flair have fans drawing parallels with Maradona and he has since earned the nickname ‘Kvaradona’.
Despite scoring six goals in 11 appearances for Napoli and interest from top European clubs, Kvaratskhelia are simply looking to continue their development.
“I can’t come close to Maradona, but I will give everything to be a great player for this club,” he told reporters last month.
Ajax, meanwhile, will have to lick their wounds after a deadly encounter.
Captain Dusan Tadić blamed the loss on a turbulent summer, after seeing so many experienced players leave the club in the transfer market.
“We have seven or eight new players. When you lose so many players it becomes a bit difficult,” said Tadić, who was sent off late in the game.
“Then you need more games to give the team a rhythm.”
Napoli have a chance to secure their place in the Champions League knockout stages when they host Ajax in the second leg on October 12, but will focus first on their next league clash against Cremonese on Sunday.