Player Spotlight: Napoli’s winter target Christian Kouamé


Genoa’s breakthrough star Krzysztof Piątek, and his 13-goal scoring outburst, have unequivocally earned much of the attention around the Marassi this 2018-19 Serie A season; trailing only Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (14) on goals will have such an effect. However, lost in all the fanfare and rumours surrounding the 23-year old’s white-hot start to life in Italy with the Rossoblu is his strike partner who, although does not rival his production, is the one generating the most buzz here in early 2019.

Let’s turn the spotlight on 21-year old Ivorian forward, Christian Kouamé.

By way of his quiet, yet gradual, ascent up through the lower ranks of Italian ‘calcio’ with Prato and Sassuolo, it was during the previous two seasons on loan at Cittadella in Serie B where Kouamé flourished (15 goals, 15 assists in 63 appearances, via transfermarkt), triggering the Genoese side to snap him up.

Between the combined outlay dished out on both the Ivory Coast international and Piątek estimated around €9-10 million, it was clear president Enrico Preziosi entrusted his scouting network to deliver two forwards who could provide the goods up front at a cut-rate price. Evident in their production through 19 matches, Genoa have hit the jackpot.

By and large, Piątek deserves every bit of recognition for taking to Italy like a duck to water and showing why at €4 million he is one of the best transfers from the summer. But without Kouamé carrying his own weight up front for a service-depleted Genoa side, the Pole likely would not have exploded like he has.

Predominantly alongside Piątek in two-ST formations under three different managers (Ballardini, Juric and now Prandelli), Kouamé’s assignments cater mostly to ensuring the Pole is supplied with adequate chances. In many cases, you can find the Class of 97′ attacker springing into action wherever the game takes him; out wide, peeling off the back shoulder of the defenders or dropping into the midfield to retrieve possession before utilizing his dribbling ability to advance play towards the final third.

At 6 ft 1 in (1,85 m), Kouamé isn’t the most imposing forward in Italy, but is one who demonstrates a willingness to engage in those 50-50 aerial battles with latching defenders that often times create chances out of nothing. By no means is he the quickest individual, but what he lacks in pace is made up in his hunger to drive forward, take on defenders and deliver a quality end-product -whether it be with his alertness to find one of his supporting players with a pass or exhibit the confidence to have a crack at goal.

Albeit raw in multiple facets of his game, particularly with finishing his chances, Kouamé looks to be an all-purpose forward by virtue of his energetic approach, work-rate, and unselfish attitude.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport earlier in the season, Kouamé was not shy in revealing his admiration for his idol, fellow Ivorian and consummate professional Didier Drogba, explaining the Chelsea legend is “more than a role model to me.”

Young forwards, or just about any forward for that matter, are typically rated based on goal contributions. If we lean in that direction, Kouamé’s 3 goals and 3 assists leave much to be desired. However, the eye test and deeper metrics will tell another story of just how influential he has been to the cause. To no surprise, as a result of peeling back the layers and observing the bigger picture that lies behind the veil of black and white numbers, clubs like Napoli, Roma, and Milan see additional value added in a forward like Kouamé. You get a strong sense from the manner in which the youngster carries himself that his humble and hard-working approach to football is what could drive his career.

At 21, Kouamé is still getting his feet wet in Italy and in the top-flight of European football. With the abundance of talent and an equally profound personality, the growth potential is certainly there for him to succeed at a bigger club – and it is only a matter of time until one comes knocking.

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