There was a lot of hype going into the new season for Super Eagles striker Victor Osimhen following his pre-season form.
Osimhen had scored eight goals in five pre-season matches for Napoli to raise fans expectations for the new season.
The Nigerian striker was tipped to reach new heights under Luciano Spalletti’s, who replaced Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli’s coach this summer.
Strikers like Edin Dzeko, Mauro Icardi and Francesco Totti had excelled under Spalletti, and many expect Osimhen to also enjoy the same kind of success under the former Inter Milan coach.
As a result, expectations were high when Napoli welcomed Venezia to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in their opening match of the new Serie A campaign.
However, 23 minutes into the encounter, the excitement in the stadium dampened as Osimhen was given a straight red card.
The striker shoved Venezia’s Daan Heymans for handling him recklessly as Napoli played a corner into Venezia’s box.
Referee Gianluca Aureliano did not waste any time in sending off the 22-year-old Nigerian striker. The sending off sparked debates on social media, with many saying it’s a harsh red card.
While it’s true a yellow card should have been the punishment, Osimhen’s reputation might have played a role in the referee’s decision.
The Super Eagles star is always emotional, but he needs to keep his emotions in check if he’s to have a successful career at Napoli.
Although he’s not the first emotional player because, after all, football is an emotional sport, the trick is learning how to control these emotions.
As a striker, it’s normal for defenders to be excessive with the grabbing inside the box, but it’s important for Osimhen to learn how to deal with these things.
It’s a view his coach Spalletti shared after the game on Sunday. The Italian tactician even backed the referee, saying Osimhen must learn how to deal with aggressive defenders.
“Osimhen’s expulsion? He has to be careful of his emotional reactions. He is a strong attacker, and all defenders will help each other,” Spalletti said.
UEFA vice-president Zbigniew Boniek also revealed Osimhen has always been a heated player, but he hopes the Nigerian learn from the lesson.
“He (Osimhen) is always very heated; he is quick and fast. But he’ll benefit from this episode,” Boniek said.
The Super Eagles striker is already under pressure to justify the club-record fee Napoli paid for him last summer after missing more than three months last season.
Although he still managed to score ten goals in 24 league games, the Neapolitans expect more from their record signing.
However, this is not an ideal start to the season for him following the red card he received on Sunday. He’s now set to miss two games, including the match against Juventus.
And with another potential five games in January due to Nigeria’s involvement in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, Osimhen can’t afford to make more mistakes this season.
It’s not just on the pitch that Osimhen has always been heated, but also off the pitch. When he sealed his record-breaking move to Naples, a Nigerian journalist reported that Osimhen hopes to emulate Maradona.
The story was gotten from an interview the former Lille man did with Naples local radio. However, Osimhen had a problem with the headline and went on Twitter to curse the journalist in a now-deleted tweet.
Although he apologised later, it was another situation of letting his emotions get the better of him.
The red card he received on Sunday was the second of his Napoli career, having also received his marching orders in the Europa League clash against Real Sociedad last season.
However, if he doesn’t learn from the latest situation and keeps his emotions in check, his reputation will always affect referees’ judgements.
As a famous person once said, “repetition makes reputation, and reputation makes customers.”