In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wunderkind; a youngster that has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age, is always on the minds of millions of fans around the world.
With this in mind, we at 101 Great Goals continue our weekly series that takes a look at U21 players across the world during the 2022-23 season. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.
Name: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia
Place of Birth: Tbilisi, Georgia
National team caps: 17 (8 goals)
Current club: SSC Napoli
Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €15m (£12.5m)
Potential suitor(s): N/A - summer arrival at SSC Napoli
Depending on which generation you hail from, you may struggle to think of many Georgian footballers that successfully crafted credible careers at the top level of European football.
For those that do not struggle, the likes of Temur Ketsbaia, Giorgi Kinkladze, Shota Arveladze, Kakha Kaladze, and Levan Kobiashvili may ring a bell, with the quintet of Georgian footballing icons donning the kits of top clubs on the continent the likes of Newcastle United, Ajax Amsterdam, Glasgow Rangers, Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan, and FC Schalke 04.
Apart from that small pantheon of heroes from the Caucasus, Georgia has lacked a presence in the overall discussion across Europe when it comes to talent at the highest level, but that may soon be about to change thanks to the rise of 21-year-old national starlet Khvicha Kvartskhelia.
A son of Tbilisi like Kobiashvili, Arveladze, and Kinkladze before him, Kvaratskhelia has long been considered the next bright spot to emerge from the country after rising through the youth ranks of domestic giant Dinamo Tbilisi after beginning his education in 2012 at the age of eleven.
Five years later as a bright-eyed 16-year-old, Kvaratskhelia made his first appearance for Blue-White in the Erovnuli Liga during the 2017-18 season. He would then leave the club the following summer and spend one season with FC Rustavi, but keen eyes were already watching the left-winger when he was named as one of the top 60 young players in the world according to The Guardian’s 2018 edition of their annual Next Generation list.
Kvaratskhelia would then move to Russia with Premier League side Rubin Kazan where he would spend three seasons with The Red-Greens along the banks of the Volga, and it is here where he would finally break into the full Georgian national side after starring for the U17, U18, and U19 sides while scoring a combined 19 goals in 29 caps.
It was during his stint with Kazan that his profile was advanced even further when he was voted the best young player in the Russian Premier League in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, while also being voted Georgian footballer of the year in 2020 and 2021.
But 2022 would see him return to Georgia and play a vital role at FC Dinamo Batumi after foreign players in the Russian Premier League were allowed to terminate their contracts after the nation invaded neighboring Ukraine.
Kvaratskhelia wasted no time dazzling upon his return home, where he bagged eight goals in just eleven appearances, which was enough for Serie A giants SSC Napoli to come calling for his services this summer for a paltry €10m move for the now 21-year-old Georgian star as the heir apparent to club legend Lorenzo Insigne who departed Naples for MLS outfit Toronto FC.
It did not take long for the Georgian starlet to settle into life in southern Italy, with a recent interview Il Mattino quoted the winger as learning Neopolitan and already feeling at home while crediting club boss Luciano Spaletti as a good teacher despite having only just arrived at the club.
And it has not taken Kvaratskhelia any time at all to settle in on the pitch either after making his full debut for Napoli yesterday evening in their 5-2 thrashing of Hellas Verona, scoring a goal and adding another assist in a performance that would have made Insigne proud.
Though he still shows signs of some immaturity when it comes to his ability to make the right decision, his level of intelligence in his movement both on and off the ball is well ahead of the curve in comparison to his contemporaries, while his desire to get forward and make things happen when on the ball means Napoli can still utilize the Georgian in a similar way to Insigne without missing a beat.
If the words of managerial great Fabio Capello are anything to go by, Kvartskhelia could be set for a major breakout season in Serie A in 2022-23.
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