Osimhen: Napoli president blames 17-goal star striker for disastrous title defence

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis sparked controversy at a press conference this week when he discussed Victor Osimhen's recurring fitness issues.

Manager Francesco Calzona was unable to rely on Osimhen to lead the attack as Napoli played to a 2-2 draw against Fiorentina in Serie A on Friday night.

It remains uncertain if Osimhen will be fit to play against Lecce on the final day of the season, potentially his last game for Napoli amid transfer rumours linking him to Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the summer.

Overall, the Nigerian striker has missed sixteen matches this season due to injury and his participation in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with the Super Eagles.

Victor Osimhen: Napoli president blames star striker's fitness issues for disastrous title defence
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It has been a tumultuous title defence for the club that outclassed and outscored their Serie A competitors to win the Scudetto last season, with Osimhen playing a vital role in that momentous achievement. With one game remaining, Napoli are placed ninth in the standings with 52 points after 37 matches, of which they have won 13, drawn 13 and lost 11.

De Laurentiis believes Osimhen is partly to blame for the club's woes this campaign.

De Laurentiis criticises Osimhen and reflects on club's challenging season

At the press conference, De Laurentiis expressed his frustration over the club's challenging season.

He pointed to the difficulties faced by the team, including the unavailability of key players like Victor Osimhen due to fitness issues.

De Laurentiis said, “You can't force coaches to train a club or you can't make sure that your first striker scores twenty-eight goals and that he is not ill and that perhaps he participated in 50% of the matches he should have played,” the 74-year-old said, as per Vesuviolive.

Osimhen joined Napoli in July 2020 for a club-record fee of €70 million, potentially rising to €80 million with add-ons, making him the most expensive African transfer to date.

Victor Osimhen: Napoli president blames star striker's fitness issues for disastrous title defence
Photo by Icon Sport

On 17 October of the same year, Osimhen scored his first goal for Napoli in a 4–1 win against Atalanta. He has since gone on to score 76 goals in 132 games for the Naples club since his arrival, and finished as Serie A top scorer in the club's title-winning 2022/23 campaign.

Could Napoli have done better If Osimhen had been present all the time?

Osimhen has been a pivotal figure for Napoli this season, despite facing numerous setbacks. The Nigerian striker, who joined Napoli in July 2020 for a club-record fee potentially rising to €80 million, has shown his quality with 17 goals and 7 assists in 31 games this term.

However, Osimhen's season has been marked by interruptions due to fitness issues, causing him to miss sixteen matches. Additionally, his commitments with the Nigerian national team at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations further reduced his availability for Napoli.

Victor Osimhen: Napoli president blames star striker's fitness issues for disastrous title defence
Photo by Icon Sport

Despite these challenges, Osimhen has made a significant impact when on the field. His goals and assists have been crucial for Napoli, confirming his importance to the team's attack. With better availability throughout the season, Napoli might have been able to even defend the title they won last season.

As the club reflects on a season of missed opportunities, questions arise about what could have been if Osimhen had been able to play a more consistent role.

His ability to find the back of the net and create scoring opportunities has been evident, leaving fans and neutrals alike wondering how Napoli's fortunes might have differed with their star striker fully fit and available.

Will Victor Osimhen be available for the Super Eagles in the crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers?

The 25-year-old Nigerian striker, is facing a race against time to recover from a muscle strain injury ahead of Nigeria's crucial back-to-back 2026 World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa's Bafana Bafana and Benin's Cheetahs.

Nigeria has had a challenging start to their qualifying campaign, being winless in their opening two games.

Osimhen's availability for these matches is uncertain, but his presence would be crucial as Nigeria seeks to improve their chances of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.

The Super Eagles missed out on the last edition in Qatar after losing to Ghana in the play-offs, making these upcoming matches even more critical.

Victor Osimhen: Napoli president blames star striker's fitness issues for disastrous title defence
Photo by Icon Sport

Despite the setbacks, Nigeria remains hopeful that Osimhen will recover in time to lead their attack. His goal-scoring ability and experience would significantly bolster the team's chances of securing vital victories in these upcoming qualifiers.

As the Nigerian football community anxiously awaits updates on Osimhen's fitness, the Super Eagles will be looking to turn their qualifying campaign around with a strong performance in these crucial matches.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.