Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s Inspiring Journey To Football Stardom
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is a 22-year-old winger who arrived at Napoli last summer with zero headlines or hype but has become one of the world’s best young players. He has quickly turned into a player that can’t be forgotten thanks to his name and his irresistible skill with a soccer ball.
Kvaratskhelia signed with Napoli for €11.5 million after playing for Dinamo Batumi in his native Georgia. In his inaugural Italian season, he became the first player to score 10 goals and assist 10 goals. He is a large, unstoppable winger who has helped lead Napoli to the verge of their first Serie A title since Diego Maradona played for them.
Kvaratskhelia’s rise to success is not entirely surprising, as the Guardian listed him as one of the 60 best young talents in the world in 2018. However, most players on such lists never become stars, let alone professionals. Kvaratskhelia moved from FC Rustavi in Georgia to Lokomotiv Moscow on loan in February 2019, but the deal wasn’t made permanent. He joined Rubin Kazan, a mid-tier Russian club, that summer.
Kvaratskhelia’s success in Italy is not easy to explain, but it may have something to do with his style of play. In Russia, he had the exceptional dribbling ability and a willingness to take on opposition players, but he did it in deeper, wider areas of the pitch, and shot from low-value areas.
This approach stretched aesthetics and efficiency about as far apart as possible, and while it made him stand out to scouts and coaches, it did not help his team win. In Italy, however, Kvaratskhelia’s attacking production has been superstar-level, almost overnight.
The quality of the Russian Premier League has declined, as the league has essentially been cut off from the rest of the continent, making it difficult to compare the quality of the league to others.
However, based on the ClubElo ratings, there are 12 better leagues in Europe, with the Russian league rating very similar to Italy’s Serie B. Kvaratskhelia’s success in Italy, therefore, may also reflect the higher level of play in Serie A, which has been dominated by teams from Spain and England in recent years.
Kvaratskhelia’s success in Italy is a testament to the importance of finding talent in unexpected places, and not necessarily relying on traditional football powerhouses to find superstar players. Kvaratskhelia’s story also highlights the importance of playing in the right league and the right system, as he was not a standout player in Russia, but became one in Italy. Finally, his story reminds us of the unpredictability of football, as players can have unexpected rises to success, even after years of average performance.