Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis responded with much-needed bravado as Al Hilal agents revealed their interest in Victor Osimhen in the summer.
French newspaper L’Equipe quoted Osimhen’s agent Roberto Calenda as saying that the club, who have spent more than €350m in the transfer window – a figure only surpassed by Chelsea – are more expensive than the Serie A Capo Cannonier had expected. Al Hilal, who earns two hundred million, is only one foot away from Osimhen. De Laurentiis has reportedly encouraged them to return next year for a fee more than double the world transfer record (€500m).
It showed how much Napoli and De Laurentiis value Osimhen. The Nigerian international has remained so even in this hyper-business era, an era where teams outside the Premier League that are not backed by government funds are expected to disband within days of the transfer window opening. De Laurentiis’ price tag was depressing enough to keep everyone out of the Saudi Pro League, and the huge cost inflation caused 28-year-old Otavio’s €60m move from Porto to Al-Nasser. His purpose was firm. De Laurentiis wanted to keep the outstanding African footballer who played in Serie A.
“We spoke with Osimhen before I organized our title celebrations,” De Laurentiis said. “Priority seemed like the right thing to do. We have an agreement in principle to extend the contract for two years (from 2025 to 2027). As for the others, we will review it with (Rudy) Garcia.
Details of the renewal talks – a reported salary increase of around €10 million a year, the highest in Serie A, and a €150 million buyout clause for non-Italian clubs next summer – emerged in early August. “(There was a lot of speculation) it’s true,” Osimhen said following Napoli’s comeback win over Frosinone on the opening weekend. “The president is the boss. We are still negotiating and maybe it will be seen what happens at the end of the transfer window. But now I’m a Napoli player which is the most important thing and I’ll give my heart and soul to the team I’ve been to before.
A month later, no signature photo or #Osimhen2027 statement has appeared. And now one looks farther than ever.
what happened? Hot replacement. Roman investigation. Posts on TikTok – Osimhe instead of being beaten by Braga. An event happened after it happened.
On Sunday, Renato Dallaire Osimhen did not react well to his decision to bring him on as his new manager’s Napoli drew 0-0. He angrily pointed two fingers at Rudy Garcia, not as an insult, but to show that he would rather stick with Giovani Simeone and go two up as the champions chase a winner at Bologna.
This is the second time that league MVP Kevicha Kvaratkhelia has voiced his displeasure at the substitution of one of Napoli’s stars after he was confused by the substitution of Alessio Zerbi against Genoa at the weekend. Still, the team was looking to turn a disappointing draw into a last-gasp victory. Garcia tried to shrug it off. “It’s better when the player leaves unhappy,” he said. It shows that you care. He may not be happy with the performance.
Osimhen missed a free kick, scored in his last 5 attempts, and was denied a penalty by a substitute. It is not the first time the 24-year-old has fallen to Napoli. Garcia’s predecessor, Luciano Spalletti, ruled him out of training in the 2022 pre-season after joining team-mate Andre-Franc Zambo Angisa.
The past few weeks have been frustrating for Napoli. The players were asked their wishes. “Are we starving again?” Captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo asked incredulously after the win in Braga. Osimhen, on the other hand, mirrored his drought at this stage last season and managed to go four games without losing a goal. Although it is not for the loss of the experiment, it is very annoying. Following the defeat at Lazio, they travel to newly promoted Genoa and the Ballon d’Or shortlisted striker was limited to just one shot. He then hit the post and bar in Braga and fired from 12 yards in Bologna.
Napoli’s image at the moment is a team whose results are as misleading as Osimhen’s goal tally. They were somewhat unlucky, scoring fewer points and opposing and resisting more than xG. Similar to last season’s matches (Lazio lost, Reggio Emilia won, and points deducted for newly promoted teams), but with a change in management, Garcia’s lineup and sub-team, the champions followed. Napoli, a new team from Serie B and Kwara and Osimhen fit, have stepped up their scrutiny on the eve of their first title in 33 years against Udinese. – Who else – Osimhen.
First, it was decided that De Laurentiis would be investigated by a jury in Rome regarding the transfer of Osimhen from Lille to Napoli in 2020. This was described as “non-history” by Mattia Grassani, a lawyer who worked at the club. Napoli has already been cleared by the Italian Football Federation, there is no new evidence, and when the Naples judges looked at the price of 21 million euros sent to the Lille exchange, in part, the price of football players – who could be. They never play for Lille and now they’re either retired or playing in the lower division – it’s like valuing art. It is impossible to prove that the club’s financial statements are incorrect in the absence of an individual and otherwise objective measure.
As De Laurentiis’ Filmuro offices are based in Rome, judges in the capital are expected to follow their counterparts in the south, as a matter of course. Napoli denies wrongdoing and other such cases, in the investigation, were not followed up further. This includes an investigation by a jury in Bologna into Riccardo Orsolini’s move from Juventus to the city club, which ended in August.
Attention has quickly and surprisingly shifted from financial accounts to TikTok accounts. In a statement on Twitter, Osimhen’s agent threatened to take legal action to protect his client from injury after the cancellation and the club’s official page mocked the player for missing a penalty against Bologna. Play it again.
Calenda’s Twitter seems to be particularly focused on the video of the penalty miss – “What happened today on Napoli’s official Tik Tok account is unacceptable” – another one posted last week featuring Osimhen and the caption ‘I’m a coconut’ – seems to fall on deaf ears. To the seed tones – it disappeared from the food. Napoli declined to comment when contacted by The Athletic. Osimhe’s Instagram, meanwhile, followed Napoli’s overnight. The account then followed them but removed almost all photos linking the player to the club on his profile.
Armando Maradona was in the starting line-up at Napoli’s Marsh and Stadio Diego on Tuesday for the team’s first game back on the road after three games in a row. Smiling as he strolled through the sweat-drenched corridors of this concrete bowl, Osimhen paused to chat with his Nigeria teammates Maduka Okoye and Isaac Skeet and Republic of Ireland international Festi Ebosele. Although fans were asked to come in Napoli jerseys to show that the team and the shirt came before anything else, Nigerian flags were at the stands to show their solidarity. Once again Osimhen left his warm friend, the fans applauded him and he applauded back.
Garcia, who appeared in front of the cameras for the first time since the 0-0 draw in Bologna, said of Osimhen: “We spoke. After that game we were all upset and angry because we didn’t win. He was special. Then, in the last two days, there were these messy posts on social media that didn’t help. I talked to him. He focuses on the field he wants.”
Finally, light work was done from Udinese. Kvaratkhelia won an early penalty and presented himself with the perfect opportunity for this story to come full circle. Garcia told the ball boy to give Osimhen the ball, but Osimhen wanted Piotr Zielinski to take it. With the likes of Giacomo Raspadori at Reggio Emilia and Osimhen at Bologna and even Kvara at Milan and Eintracht Frankfurt last season, the Poles made no mistake from the spot and Napoli were on the move. Soon after, Osimhen ended his mini-goal drought by clearing the ball from Meteo Politano. The crowd roared but Osimhen’s celebration was so muted that DAZN commentators thought the Napoli centre-forward must have been sent off. No violation has occurred.
An optimistic Garcia win will help put a smile back on everyone’s face, but not everything can be forgotten in 90 minutes.
Garcia added to DAZN after the game: “No one wanted to do any harm, neither TikTok (social media manager) nor Victor on his (agent) social networks.” They are an instinctive response. He loves this jersey and he loves the fans.
“I’ve been coaching for 30 years; I thought it was 80 percent on the field and 20 percent managing everything else. Players, agents and directors. Now it’s the other way around.”
Reports of a January transfer that Osimhe will miss the Africa Cup of Nations seem unlikely, but Napoli will face controversy in the summer if the player enters the final year of his contract without putting pen to paper. On renewal. This week probably won’t be the last we hear about Napoli, Osimhene and the Tick Talk affair.
(Top photo: Alessandro Sabatini/Getty Images)