This article was first published in Champions Journal. Read the original article here.
It’s an expression Victor Osimhen has likely heard at least once: “Non c’è due senza tre.” Never two without three. Perhaps a Napoli team-mate saluted him with the phrase after his first hat-trick for the club last October. Or perhaps those words have become a kind of background noise, audible wherever he goes in Naples from one day to the next, a mantra always being uttered somewhere and carried on the warm breeze inland from theMediterranean. In a city with a strong claim to being Italy’s epicentre of superstition, it’s a slice of folk wisdom that holds particular weight.
Three is very much the magic number in Naples. As it has been for centuries, a figure seared into the city’s active imagination by revered local patron saint San Gennaro. Three times every year, his dried blood is said to turn to liquid in the vials that store it, an occasion marked by a street procession of thousands and an elaborate ritual as the archbishop displays the purported miracle to the devout and curious alike. As Neapolitan legend has it, should the blood fail to liquify even one time out of three, disaster awaits. And with Mount Vesuvius brewing next door, that is no laughing matter.
Make your own pilgrimage to Naples these days and the number three will be everywhere you look: on wall murals, in shop windows, across commemorative T-shirts, on banners hung proudly from windows or slung over balconies. But for a very different reason. Football is a rival, albeit overlapping religion in the capital of Campania and, at the time of writing, the local faithful finally closed in on a sacred trinity of their own: Napoli’s long-awaited third Serie A title.
Never two without three? It is 33 years since Diego Maradona drove the team to their second Scudetto in four seasons, an era of dizzying success that was gone as quickly as it came. For decades, the club trophy cabinet seemed to provide dusty evidence to the contrary, a painful exception to the rule of three. But the Azzurri are back on top of the Italian game at last – and zero miracles have been involved.
The passion and eagerness to get this trophy to Naples... it has been one of their lifelong dreams and now it’s finally happening. I’m really happy for them, and I’m also happy to be part of history.” The Nigerian forward has certainly been that, with Napoli also reaching the last eight of the Champions League/ European Cup for the first time this season; while exiting at the hands of AC Milan was disappointing, it was offset by domestic affairs. Osimhen’s scoring record of close to a goal a game in Serie A this term has placed him front and centre as the star turn in Luciano Spalletti’s deftly assembled team. In his third season at the club – that number again – he looks well placed to finish top scorer in the Italian top flight and become the first African player to take the Capocanonniere crown, a feat that eluded such gifted goal hounds as Samuel Eto’o and George Weah.
Osimhen’s own idol, Didier Drogba, never played in Serie A. But the 24-year-old received high praise from the Chelsea great’s old coach José Mourinho in January when he struck in a 2-1 defeat of Roma, during a prolific run of registering in eight consecutive games. “He is on the same level as Drogba,” commented the Roma boss, attesting to Osimhen’s improved finishing since he was named best young player in the Italian elite last term. Already a handful for defenders with his leggy pace, rock-solid body strength and instinct to attack space, the Napoli No9 has graduated into the top echelon of modern forwards, his name now intoned with the likes of Erling Haaland.