Depth is of paramount importance to any title contender looking to take the next step with their project and propel themself into the upper echelons of football’s best. A simple inventory check of their reserves paints a very clear picture of which clubs have a strong 11-13 and who has strength in numbers up and down the teamsheet.
Believe it or not, but you can tell an awful lot about what a club’s objectives are and where they are headed based on the quality of their 14th, 15th and 16th player. For instance, Juventus, Napoli’s main nemesis, have a star-studded XI, but a stocked second team that is quite capable of competing at a high level.
On matchday 1 vs Parma, the Bianconeri‘s bench included the following notables: Gianluigi Buffon, Emre Can, Mario Mandzukic, Matthijs de Ligt, Paulo Dybala, Adrien Rabiot, Juan Cuadrado, Rodrigo Bentacur and Federico Bernardeschi. This list excludes Aaron Ramsey who, although injured, will likely be one of the first names summoned, lending even more credence to a Maurizio Sarri squad equipped to navigate a long, grueling season and last in the end.
So, if Carlo Ancelotti and Napoli‘s aim is to knock Juventus from off their perch and dethrone them as Serie A champions this season, then it will take all hands on deck and elevated performances from those fringe players with something to prove, including Amin Younes.
The Düsseldorf born midfielder came through Borussia Mönchengladbach’s system where he spent his formative years before eventually debuting for the German outfit as a substitute on April 1, 2019 against Hannover. The following two seasons would then see Younes feature over 20 times for Die Fohlen before spending the 2014-15 season on loan in Germany’s second division with Kaiserslautern where opportunity was a bit harder to come by than he probably expected, featuring 14 times in the league. Yet, upon signing a three -year contract for Dutch powerhouse Ajax in July 2015, Younes’ career would begin taking flight, freeing him to put his talents and potential into action under Frank de Boer in Amsterdam.
Ajax, a hotbed where stars are born, paved the way for Younes‘ ascend, as the diminutive class of ‘93 attacking midfielder found continuity within the squad and produced at a very high level. A nimble, technically gifted forward with the dribbling ability to hold the upper hand in most 1v1 situations, Younes sparkled in his first season at the formerly named Amsterdam Arena, scoring eight goals and impressively supplying nine assists to validate his penchant for creating chances.
Following his feature in the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final defeat to Manchester United, the 2017-18 season would be defined by mismanagement, mistakes and a season-ending suspension due to an alleged breach of contract and refusal to play.
Younes, whose move to Napoli fell through last January despite undergoing standard medical examinations, was accused of breaching contracts and rejecting the Partenopei because of his displeasure with the city – of which he denied such claims and took accountability for.
“I take responsibility for my actions. I made mistakes and trusted the wrong people. I was naive,” he told dpa.
Amidst some backlash and resentment from Napoli supporters, Younes eventually sealed his transfer to the San Paolo last July, choosing the number 34 shirt in tribute to former teammate Abdelhak Nouri and ready to work with a clean slate under Ancelotti. A ruptured Achilles’ tendon would however place the German on the shelf for virtually the entire first half of the 2018-19 season, postponing him from introducing who he truly was a footballer and person until his debut on December 8 vs Frosinone.
Though he was limited to just 545 minutes across all competitions, Younes did contribute with 3 goals and 3 assists, as well as the impetus in brief spells to dazzle, tease defenders and show firsthand why he was touted as one of the next big beneficiaries of the Ajax way.
Shortly after Napoli’s 2-0 win over Frosinone last April in which Younes was on target, Ancelotti voiced his delight with his player’s progression and future value to the club, telling DAZN the 26-year old “proved today what he’s been capable of. ”He’s formidable in one-on-one situations, and that is what we must make the most of.”
The Italian coach also added that he believed Younes will really make an impact in 2019/20, leading us all to believe that his opportunities to prove himself worthy of a key role will come in due course. But, as a result of Lorenzo Insigne recently picking up an injury while on international duty with Italy, and Arek Milik missing From squad for the match with Sampdoria, multiple reports are adamant Ancelotti will run Younes out there to play up front with Dries Mertens.
Minutes and opportunities will prove hard to come by for attackers as Ancelotti has the luxury of many options, but if Younes is handed the start on Saturday, it could be the trial he needs to earn the trust of his manager and show exactly what he is capable of.
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