African All Stars

Napoli have enough leaders to replace injured Koulibaly and Insigne – Spalletti

11:50 WAT 04/12/2021
Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli 2021-22
The Italian coach maintains a brave face despite losing key players to injury ahead of their top-flight fixture at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti believes he has enough leaders in the squad to replace captain Lorenzo Insigne and centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly.

The 30-year-old Senegal defender has been ruled out of action for at least a month due to an injury in his left thigh that he sustained during their Serie A encounter against Sassuolo on Wednesday.

Koulibaly was subsequently replaced by Juan Jesus in the 80th minute as Napoli went on to claim a 2-2 draw in the fixture at Stadio Citta del Tricolore.

Meanwhile, Insigne suffered a nearly season-ending injury against Fiorentina after landing awkwardly on his right leg and he has already undergone surgery.

Ahead of their fixture against Atalanta at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Saturday, Spalletti has maintained he has a squad of 16 players able to play and give the team the result they want.

“We are still able to send 16 players onto the pitch, we can do what we want even if we lack our captain and a commander [Insigne and Koulibaly],” Spalletti said as quoted by Football Italia.

“We have many leaders in the team. There are people like [Dries] Mertens, [Giovanni] Di Lorenzo, Mario Rui, [David] Ospina.

“[Amir] Rrahmani, who has now become a leader, [Piotr] Zielinski, who is tough when asked to go out on the pitch to do a certain type of work. And the others, who have been hungry. We will have to be good at controlling the game with our qualities, not clashing with the qualities of Atalanta.

“This will make all the difference. We will not have to give away the ball, but play it, win the duels. Everything is down to managing every single thing you do when you have the ball.”

With Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen also out injured, Spalletti, who will not sit on the dugout due to suspension, is confident his fringe players will step up and do the job during the difficult time.

“You have to choose between those who remain,” Spalletti continued. “It’s essential to be united, to protect the team that has already shown how much they care about this shirt.

“You see it every day on the training ground. There’s no better opportunity to prove it than when you play. Every now and then when I’m joking with those who don’t play, I happen to say: ‘Look, sooner or later I’ll let you play. Since they are ready to put their qualities into practice.

“Now, the opportunity arises and there’s no better situation than this to see if we let ourselves be scared or if we want to go and find new energy and new resources.”

Koulibaly’s injury is also a concern to Senegal as they prepare to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations scheduled for Cameroon from January 9.