In the modern era of football, utilizing the loan system has become a vital part of player development. Especially at the level Napoli are at, it can be difficult to carve out much-needed minutes for younger players who aren't quite up to snuff yet. By loaning those younger players out to sides that better fit their current talent level, they can get the time on the pitch that they need.
Look at Lorenzo Insigne. Four and a half years ago, he was a 18 year old budding with talent, but short on experience. We all knew he had the ability to play at a high level in Serie A and Europe, but he needed time on the pitch that Napoli couldn't give him to unlock that talent. So he spent six months with Cavese and a year at Foggia playing decent football before he went to Pescara, hooked up with Zdenek Zeman, had something go "click", and spent the 2011/2012 season kicking ass and taking names. That moment, that "click", is something that all players have to have in order to become what they're capable of being, and these days, that moment comes while away on loan as often as not.
Take Omar El Kaddouri for example. The attacking midfielder is in his second year with Torino, last season away on a co-ownership, this year on a straight loan. Last season he was a regular in Torino's squad and got steadily better as the season wore on, but this year, there's something different. Something sharper. Something better.
It's a little early to be certain, especially with Torino's up-and-down form this season, but El Kaddouri has kicked his entire game up a notch this season. He's running harder and smarter, he's seeing and executing his passes a beat faster, he's taking better shots, he's reading the game out of possession better. By all appearances, El Kaddouri has had his "click", and spending the last year and change playing regularly at Torino did a lot of good to push him to that point from the scattered and rough young player he was when he first showed up from Brescia a few years ago.
Of course, El Kaddouri also apparently has work to do in terms of keeping his head screwed on straight: after he faced his parent club on Sunday and Torino lost, El Kaddouri was shown a red card after the match for arguing with the referee, and was given a two-match suspension along with Torino's captain, Kamil Glik, who was also shown red at the same time. That's not something he can make a habit of doing if he wants to be a successful pro.
Roberto Insigne, younger brother of Lorenzo, seems to be having himself a moment as well. After helping Perugia get to Serie B last season, he's back in Lega Pro with Reggina, and in the club's first seven matches, he's scored six goals, including a hat trick in their most recent match against Cosenza. Much like his older brother, Insigne is a wide forward/second striker type of player who finds himself space and opportunities along with them.
While Roberto is doing things at a lower level, it's hard to ignore this kind of production. If he keeps this up, a recall and a loan to a Serie B side in January seems likely, in order to challenge him more and to see if pushing him to a higher level is possible. It generally hasn't been believed that Roberto has the same potential as Lorenzo, but he still has more than enough in him to be a very useful player to Napoli.
Speaking of Cosenza, they also have a potent Napoli youngster on their roster in the form of Giuseppe Fornito. After spending his first four league matches with the club riding the pine, Fornito has started their last three matches as a central midfielder, and has done fairly well. Cosenza haven't scored in that time (they're in 19th for a reason), but he's been active, he's created danger moving forward, and he's been responsible out of possession. If he can keep this up, and keep getting minutes, he can finally start taking the strides he's needed to tap the significant potential he's flashed in youth-level matches.
Looking abroad, Napoli have a very interesting player playing his trade in Greece right now. Nicolao Dumitru struggled with Cittadella and Reggina in Serie B a year ago, but he's done very well for PAE Veria in the Greek Superleague. He's played in all five of Veria's matches so far, scoring twice and assisting on two other goals as Veria find themselves in second behind only PAOK and two points ahead of mighty Olympiakos.
Dumitru has mostly been working as a left wide forward, and has shone in that role after struggling as a central striker in the past. He scored on his debut as a sub to put Veria ahead of Skoda, and has started every match since then, registering a goal or assist in each match except for Veria's lone loss of the season, when they fell 3-0 to Olympiakos. He's looked far more composed and confident that we've seen from Dumitru in the past, and that's an excellent sign as to his development as a professional player.
We'll continue to take periodic looks at Napoli's loanees as the season progresses. Hopefully we'll have far more good news than bad to share, like that of poor Gennaro Tutino, the 18 year old attacking midfield dynamo who was loaned to Vicenza in Lega Pro to cut his teeth and then promptly blew out his knee in one of his first training sessions. But with a little luck, there won't be much sad news to pass along.