Barcelona Beware? Kvaratskhelia Seeks Redemption in Rematch

Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, known for his shy demeanor, surprised fans with a frustrated outburst after being substituted during a crucial Champions League match against Barcelona, tonight is the rematch, can the Georgian redeem himself?

by Sededin Dedovic
Barcelona Beware? Kvaratskhelia Seeks Redemption in Rematch
© Francesco Pecoraro / Getty images

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, whose style is often compared to Diego Maradona, behaves differently from the Argentine legend. Despite his nickname 'Quaradona', he tends to shy away from the spotlight due to his innate shyness. Thus, when he was unexpectedly substituted during Napoli's Champions League clash with Barcelona, it was not just the substitution that attracted attention, but also Kvaratshelia's reaction.

Showing visible annoyance, he not only ignored his coach, but also his teammates as he walked off the field. We haven't had the opportunity to see this often from this Georgian player, but it seems that he can't always remain calm and composed.

His choice to sit apart from the team on the dugout steps further underscored his displeasure, reminiscent of a tantrum line, albeit less dramatic than some recent cases in soccer. After the match, Kvaratskhela's demeanor did not improve; he quickly left the stadium without contacting colleagues or journalists.

This departure from his usual humble and cheerful self baffled Napoli fans and observers alike, as it was a departure from the Kvaratskhelia they knew. However, some people found it cute, so pictures of the young player sitting on the stairs flooded the European media.

While coach Francesco Calzona's decision to replace Kvaratskhelia midway through the game may have been bold, it was justified. Kvaratskhelia's lackluster performance against Barcelona, with zero shots, no key passes and minimal involvement, warranted his removal.

The Georgian seemed not to be on the field, and probably frustrated by the bad game, he acted impulsively, which surprised everyone present, including coach Francesco Calzone. The coach's post-match remarks highlighted his focus on performance rather than the reputation and popularity of the players.

Calzona once again proved his willingness to make difficult decisions for the good of the team.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of SSC Napoli battles for possession with Jules Kounde of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League 20© Francesco Pecoraro / Getty Images

"I keep the players on the field who are doing well, I don't look at their names," Calzona told Sky Sport Italia afterwards.

"Those who do not do well can be removed." Unlike Victor Osimhen, who struggled with injuries and fatigue, Kvaratskhelia had no excuses for his lackluster performance. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis publicly highlighted Kvaratskhelia's drought for a significant part of last season.

However, Kvaratshelia's struggles cannot be attributed to his form alone; Napoli's wider problems, including managerial changes and inconsistent performances from key players, affected its performance. During the last season, he was one of the most important players for Napoli, who won Serie A last year and are active champions of the competition.

Despite his dip in form, Kvaratskhelia remains key to Napoli's success. His performance is often correlated with the team's performance, and his absence is felt in situations where he fails. Although his European performances have not reached the heights of his game against Ajax in 2022, he is not alone in his struggles, with several Napoli players having failed since the departure of former coach Luciano Spalletti.

Napoli doesn't look like last year, and this is another proof of how much a coach means in a sport like soccer. However, the current coach of Calzona has the intention to please this young player. "I found him to be slightly introverted, but not too much, because after three days he was laughing and joking with everyone, If he doesn't perform well, he's the first to do self-criticism and I really like this." Despite speculation surrounding his future amid reported interest from top clubs, his agent has remained open to potential transfers, leaving his future uncertain.

Kvaratskhelia's performances last year, including goals and assists in key matches, have undoubtedly boosted his market value. All over Europe, clubs were looking for Kvaratskhelia and Osmihen, who were the most pleasant surprise last season, but it seems that they still have faith in these players.

Despite his resurgence, Kvaratskhelia's future remains uncertain. Rumors linking him with clubs like Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Liverpool persist, fueled by his agent's comments about considering offers that align with his client's ambitions.

However, as the season progresses, Kvaratskhelia's focus appears to be on delivering for Napoli, potentially leaving any transfer discussions for the end of the campaign. Whether he remains a Napoli player or seeks new opportunities elsewhere, his journey will undoubtedly be closely watched by fans and pundits alike.

For now, the focus remains on his contributions to Napoli's quest for silverware and his potential impact in upcoming fixtures, including the eagerly anticipated clash with Barcelona. Barcelona, who have witnessed his subdued performances earlier, could face the formidable Kvaratskhelia in their upcoming match today at 21:00 CET.

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