Last season, Napoli brought in an unknown Colombian youngster to play striker. When people first saw Duvan Zapata, they only knew him to be a tall, strong, young striker who people said had potential, but who had very little in the way of evidence to that potential behind him.
Once he started getting chances with Napoli, though, Zapata started to raise eyebrows. There's definitely a rawness to the Colombian's game, but in addition to his size and strength, he's surprisingly athletic and quick on his feet, and has much better skills on the ball than you'd expect. He's an absolute tank up top, and has a good feel for how to use his abilities to get the job done. In 21 appearances last season, Zapata scored seven goals in all competitions, and added a pair of assists for good measure.
Playing time has been harder for Zapata to come by this season, though, and his form has suffered with his chances. Zapata's gotten just five appearances in Serie A this season and four in the Europa League, managing just two goals and an assist (a very impressive assist involving a bulldozing run) in the process. One of those goals came as a substitute this weekend to earn Napoli a last-minute draw against Sampdoria despite being down to ten men, and it seems to have also secured Zapata's determination to stay in Naples.
"He wants to stay at Napoli through January," said Zapata's agent, Fernando Schena, in an interview with Radio CRC. "[In] June we will decide his future based on our communication with Napoli. We have not received offers within Italy, he really trusts Rafa Benitez and is certain he’ll have more playing time going forward."
Zapata's agent may not have received concrete offers from clubs in Italy, but there's been plenty of interest in the striker in Italy. Since early August, Udinese have been repeatedly linked with a move for the Colombian, as have Genoa, Sassuolo, and Torino at different times. Should Napoli decide to part ways with Zapata (which they shouldn't, unless it's a loan to get him consistent playing time), they certainly won't lack for suitors.
Zapata very obviously is loaded with talent to be tapped. He may not have Gonzalo Higuain's gift for creating from the front or Edinson Cavani's endless energy reserves and ability to race up and down the pitch with wild abandon, but Zapata has all the makings of a striker who can play very well up top and score a whole bushel of goals. He needs more playing time to start realizing that potential, though, so hopefully Rafa Benitez starts better utilizing his talents soon, lest Zapata decide to leave at season's end.