Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti invoked the memory of club legend Diego Maradona after watching his side thrash Ajax 6-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Italian team fell behind early in the match after Mohammed Kudus’ ricocheted goal but replied by demolishing the hosts with an impressive performance.
Goals from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Piotr Zielinski, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Giovanni Simeone complimented a fine brace from Giacomo Raspadori to silence the Johan Cruijff Arena and maintain Napoli’s 100% 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 match.
Maradona, who died in 2020, is never far from the minds of Napoli fans after he inspired the club to its most successful era.
The club has not won a league title since 1987 and 1990 when Maradona was at his peak, but the performance in Amsterdam has supporters dreaming of a new golden era.
Spalletti, though, is trying to keep his team’s feet on the ground despite an unbeaten start to Serie A.
“One match does not change your life. It was an excellent performance. It’s very nice to win like this, but now we have to go back to thinking 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 attacker Kvaratskhelia might well 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 spell with Georgian side Dinamo Batumi.
He had previously impressed at Russian side Rubin Kazan, but his contract was suspended amid the invasion of Ukraine.
His pace and attacking flair has fans drawing parallels with Maradona and he’s since earned the nickname ‘Kvaradona’.
Despite scoring six goals in 11 appearances for Napoli and interest from Europe’s top clubs, Kvaratskhelia is just looking to continue his development.
“I can’t come close to Maradona, but I will give my all to be a big player for this club,” he told reporters last month.
Ajax, meanwhile, will be left licking its wounds after a bruising encounter.
Captain Dusan Tadić blamed a turbulent summer for the defeat, having seen so many experienced players leave the club in the transfer market.
“We have seven or eight new players. When you lose that many players, it gets a bit difficult,” said Tadić, who was sent off late in the match.
“Then you need more matches to get a rhythm into the team.”
Napoli has a chance to secure its place in the knockout stages of the Champions League when it hosts Ajax in the return leg on October 12 but will first focus on its next league clash against Cremonese on Sunday.