Osimhen hails 'demanding' Spalletti as Napoli sweep past Empoli to close in on title glory
Victor Osimhen believes Napoli's success is the result of great leadership as Luciano Spalletti's team moved a step nearer to their first Serie A title for 33 years.
The Nigerian striker scored for an eighth consecutive league game, taking his goal tally in Serie A to 10 since the turn of the year, with Napoli winning 2-0 at Empoli on Saturday.
The last player to embark on a goal-getting streak so long in Italy's top flight was Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored in 11 consecutive games for Juventus during the 2019-20 campaign.
Napoli's latest away success – their fifth in a row without conceding – was a result that could be directly seen as a measure of the team's progress, given they lost the corresponding game 3-2 last season despite holding a two-goal lead at one point.
This time Napoli never looked like surrendering their advantage after getting ahead, with Ardian Ismajli's own goal followed by Osimhen tucking away a close-range chance.
Napoli were two goals clear inside half an hour, and even the sending-off of Mario Rui midway through the second half did not prove costly.
Spalletti made a tactical reshuffle, and it was Napoli who looked the likelier scorers of a third goal, even with their numerical disadvantage.
"Today we had last year's defeat in mind and we were very concentrated to be able to redeem ourselves and get the win," Osimhen said.
"I'm happy with the confidence the coach has given me, but credit goes to my team-mates because we are a group who are always proving to be competitive on the pitch. Winning here today was very complicated because Empoli are an excellent team."
Saluting the coach and driving force behind this Scudetto push, Osimhen said: "Spalletti always pushes me to give my best, he's a very good and very demanding coach.
"He wants every player to be able to express himself at his best and we follow him because we're doing an extraordinary job which can be seen in the game and in the results."
Osimhen, quoted on Napoli's website, added: "This is definitely the best season of my career, I feel great mentally and physically and I'm happy to be able to continue like this to achieve great goals."
He has 19 goals in 20 Serie A games this term, with Napoli pulling 18 points clear of second-placed Inter, who have a trip to Bologna on Sunday.
It is proving to be a rout of the field as Napoli close in on silverware, winning 21 of 24 games so far, a club record at this stage.
Spalletti said he sensed a "team that knew how to fight and win with a leader's mentality".
Considering Napoli were last champions of Italy in 1989-90, in the days of Diego Maradona and Careca, it is remarkable they have delivered such a spectacular show of dominance this term.
Napoli have lost just once in the league, to Inter on January 4, and they would have to collapse dramatically to not be champions.
"Today the concern was that our level of fighting might be lower than theirs," said Spalletti. "Instead the boys had an availability and a predisposition to sacrifice that deserves praise. I congratulate the team because they are performing excellently."
He said Napoli's midfield "put on a tough face and fought ball after ball with extraordinary dedication".
Using a colloquialism, Spalletti added: "This team is a lot of stuff.
"If we are at this point of the season it means that I have a squad that know how to interpret each match in an exemplary way, with the mentality and spirit which must a team that wants to impose itself must have."