The most expensive Napoli signing of the season is officially part of the team, but since he most recently plied his trade with lower-profile Sampdoria, not a lot of Napoli fans may know a lot about Manolo Gabbiadini. We know he's a forward, but what kind is he? How does he help the team this season? What's his projection moving forward? Fortunately, our scouting report is at the ready to give you the information you seek.
DOB: November, 26, 1991 (23) | Height: 6'1" (1.86 meters)
2014 Season: 15 appearances (13 starts)
9 goals, 2 assists
Strengths: You might not necessarily know it to look at him, but Gabbiadini is a shifty and slippery guy. He has a deft touch on the ball and fairly fluid movements that he uses to thread his way through defenses, and he's left more than a few defenders looking confused during his career so far. You just don't expect a long and gangly looking guy like Gabbiadini to be able to move like that. That ability allows him to get in to some dangerous positions in the box, either to slip through a cross to another forward or to take a shot for himself.
Gabbiadini isn't just a good runner on the ball, though; he's very smart about picking out the right spots to put himself when his side has possession but he himself doesn't have the ball. He reads defenses well and makes runs to exploit chinks or holes or spaces left soft by poor positioning. You also won't see too many players who run harder after deflected, rebounding, or other loose balls to try to put them away.
Gabbiadini is also lethal shooting from long range, with good power to his shot and an ability to pick the right angle and get juuuust enough curl on the ball to sneak in. He's good outside the box in open play, but he's even better on free kicks, which is how he's scored three of his seven league goals this season. If Napoli need a goal and have a free kick in a good spot, they might be well-advised to let Gabbiadini take it.
Weaknesses: While Gabbiadini has a good low cross and gets involved in the attack very well, he's not an especially creative player, or a high-quality passer. That limits his ability to contribute to build-up play somewhat, though in Napoli's setup that lacking should be made up for elsewhere on the pitch most times.
Gabbiadini also isn't the best working in defense, which could be a problem when he's asked to play out wide. He tracks back decently enough, but his positioning and technique when trying to accomplish something other than getting in the way leaves much to be desired. Perhaps he can get better with work and drilling, but in the meantime Napoli's fullbacks shouldn't expect much in the way of effective help when Gabbiadini is starting out wide.
Summation: Gabbiadini's youth, talent, versatility, and Italian-ness makes him a good fit for what Napoli need, both now and over the next few seasons. Right away he can help with the dearth of good depth out wide, particularly on the left wing where Lorenzo Insigne's injury and Dries Mertens' inconsistent form has left Napoli struggling for much of the last two months. Even on days when he doesn't start, Gabbiadini's ability to play across the front line will leave him as an excellent attacking option off the bench, which Napoli have desperately needed of late.
Over the next few seasons, however, is where this deal will truly shine. Gabbiadini's status as a home-grown (or association-trained) player will help Napoli with Italy's new roster regulations that take effect soon, as well as make it a little easier to fill out a Champions League or Europa League roster for UEFA's rules. At 23 years old, Gabbiadini also has the time and potential left in his skillset to become an even better player than he is now, and he should be just hitting his best quality of play when guys like Jose Callejon or Dries Mertens start to slow down or leave for other clubs.
The move is a little pricey at a potential €13 million, but in the end it should be well worth the expense. He may be a little dorky-looking, but Gabbiadini has all the ability to become a real fan favorite in Naples. Napoli have made a terrific purchase.