A landlocked country that sits at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Georgia is home to just 3.7 million, with roughly a third of its population residing in the capital of Tbilisi. The biggest and most successful club in the nation is Dinamo Tbilisi, having won 19 league titles over the past three decades and producing various big-name Georgian footballers such as Temur Ketsbaia, Shota Arveladze, Giorgi Kinkladze, Kakha Kaladze, and Levan Kobiashvili.
It was here in Dinamo Tiblisi that Khvicha Kvaratskhelia began his career, joining the club’s academy in 2012 and ascending the ranks before making his professional debut in 2017, moving to Georgian side Rustavi a year later and quickly earning attention throughout Europe, with English newspaper The Guardian naming him as one of the 60 best young players in football in 2018.
This would see him earn a move to Lokomotiv Moscow, joining the Russian side on loan in February 2019 and impressing with his unique technical ability and stellar command of the football. They were unable to agree a permanent deal, however, with fellow Russian side Rubin Kazan swooping in and nailing down his signing on a five-year deal, causing Lokomotiv manager Yury Syomin to lament, “Losing that extremely and talented boy made me cry.”
The Georgian winger began to make a lasting impression in Russia, winning the club’s Player of the Month award four times in 2020–21 and racking up 9 goals and 2 assists in 69 appearances, before parting ways with the club in March 2022. FIFA announced that, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, foreign players in Russia could unilaterally suspend their contracts, prompting Kvaratshkelia to suspend his contract and return to his homeland, joining Dinamo Batumi, where he would score 8 goals and 2 assists in 11 league matches.
He would not last long in Georgia, however, with Napoli signing him on a contract through 2027 for a reported fee of €10–12 million. Whilst it seemed that he would be a long-term signing, Kvaratshkelia shrugged off any suggestion of a loan departure by making an instant impact in Italy, grabbing a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win against Hellas Verona in his official debut, before following that up with a brace in a 4-0 win against Monza. In doing so, he became the first player in Napoli history to score three goals in his first two league matches.
Instead of falling off after a strong start, ‘Kvaradona’ has only gone up another level under Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti. The 21-year-old has filled Lorenzo Insigne’s vacancy on the left side of attack and played a crucial role in Napoli’s sensational start that has seen the Partenopei score 57 goals in their first 21 games, sitting eight points clear of defending champions Milan atop the Serie A table and topping their Champions League group of Liverpool, Ajax and Rangers.
Kvaratskhelia is blessed with an effervescent technical ability that puts fans on the edge of their seats, and his elusive style can strike the fear of God in any defender. A prime example was his standout performance against Liverpool when he ran Joe Gomez ragged while exposing Trent Alexander-Arnold’s lack of defensive knowhow. With 6 goals and 7 assists in 12 Serie A appearances, he’s far from just a circus entertainer — he has the end product to back it up.
A divinely talented 1v1 specialist, the creative technician has taken Serie A and the Champions League by storm and has proven a vital cog in attack for the Partenopei. After utilizing the World Cup pause to recover from a lower back injury, Kvaratshkelia will be looking to continue his stellar performances for Napoli as they look to win their first Scudetto in 33 years.
By: Victor Akinola / @Only1Victor
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ciancaphoto Studio / Getty Images