Marek Hamsik isn’t necessarily a man you think of much, unless you’re a Napoli fan. Or Slovakian.
There are better midfielders in world football, although few have as eye-catching a haircut. There are better midfielders at Napoli, especially as Allan continues to flourish.
He’s probably not even in the top five Serie A midfielders. Miralem Pjanic, Marcelo Brozovic, Lucas Biglia, Jordan Veretout and Marten De Roon all currently score higher on WhoScored‘s player ratings.
That shouldn’t take away from the fact that Hamsik is the greatest ever signing by a promoted club.
Sure, N’Golo Kante won a Premier League title in his first season at Leicester before netting the club £30million when he moved to Chelsea the following campaign.
But Hamsik is Napoli. Napoli is Hamsik. Not since the days of Diego Maradona has a foreign player become so ingrained in Naples’ DNA.
The Slovakian arrived at Napoli in 2007.
Napoli had just been promoted to the top flight of Italian football after finishing the 2006/07 season as Serie B runners-up.
Hamsik wasn’t new to Italian football. The midfielder joined Brescia as a 17-year-old, experiencing relegation from Serie A in his first campaign.
He also wasn’t new to the Stadio San Paolo, having netted for Brescia in a 3-1 loss to Napoli- one of the ten league goals he scored during his last season at the club.
It didn’t take long for Hamsik’s snarling, combative on-pitch nature to click with the locals.
Hamsik is a rare breed of attacking midfielder for whom physicality outweighs technique, although he’s always held his own at the top level.
But, such is his impeccable timing and ability to avoid detection, injury has rarely impacted upon Hamsik’s time at Napoli.
The 31-year-old averages 36 league games a season across 11 full campaigns in Naples.
On four occasions Hamsik has played in every single one of Napoli’s Serie A games while on a further four occasions that number has dropped by one.
Only once- during the 2013/14 season- has that number dropped below 30. A truly Herculean effort given the strains placed upon the body of a modern footballer.
Silverware has, for the most part, avoided Hamsik during his time at Napoli, but that’s not for the want of trying.
Hamsik has been named in Serie A’s Team of the Season three times (2011, 2016 & 2017), rubbing shoulders with Serie A royalty like Alessandro Nesta and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In 2013 and 2015 he provided more assists than any other player in Serie A, edging out Francesco Totti the first time around.
Hamsik scored in the 2012 Coppa Italia final to put the finishing touches on a first piece of major silverware since the giddy days of Maradona in 1990.
Two years later he added another Coppa Italia medal and the Italian Super Cup. Sure, it’s not the most trophy-laden career but, as Napoli players go, Hamsik’s CV is up there.
There’s also the 111 caps for Slovakia (and counting) he’s racked up since joining the club, as well as seven Slovak Player of the Year awards.
In December 2017, Hamsik overtook Maradona to become Napoli’s all-time top scorer with goal number 116.
The man Pavel Nedved described as his ‘heir’ has written his own piece of Serie A history.
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