Football fans around the world are constantly in search of the next big thing, the player who will lead their team to glory and cement their place in history. This season, Napoli are plowing their way to the Serie A title and have a clear path to the UEFA Champions League final. If the club were to complete an unprecedented double, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia would almost certainly find himself battling for the top spot on the Ballon d’Or podium. The Georgian has been an absolute revelation, scoring 14 goals and providing 16 assists in all competitions. His value has skyrocketed, likely above €100 million euros. It is well known that Kvaratskhelia is a huge fan of Guti and Real Madrid, which has many Madridistas clamoring for his arrival.
The Napoli winger plays primarily on the left, the same position as Vinicius Junior, meaning if he were to arrive in the Spanish capital he would likely need to alternate between the right wing, center attacking midfield, and left wing — a similar role to Rodyrgo. Given the two players are just a month apart in age (22), and Kvara would command a huge transfer outlay, is the Georgian truly that incrementally better than the Brazilian to merit such an investment? While they come from different parts of the world, and play for different teams, these two young footballers have more in common than one might think. A statistical comparison between Kvaratskhelia and Rodrygo reveals some surprising similarities.
Strictly looking at end-product, a comparison of goals + assists, Kvaratskhelia has had the better season. Real Madrid’s utility man in offense, Rodrygo, has 18 G+A contributions, while Kvara has 30. Rodrygo has played more minutes this season, but has only started 60% of the games while Kvaratskhelia is one of the first name’s on the team sheet for Spalletti, starting 98% of the matches. If we look at the underlying numbers for both, coupled with the context that Rodrygo has less consistency in game-time/rhythm and playing a variety of different positions — mostly away from the left wing — the numbers speak to the Brazilian’s quality.
Rodrygo has had a poor finishing season. He is under-performing vs his expected goals in the league, recording 4 goals vs non-penalty xG of 8.1. The 22-year-old is getting into the right spots, but has failed to find the cold-blooded instinct that he has exuded in previous campaigns. As Ruud Van Nisterlooy once told Higuain, sooner or later that ketchup bottle is going to release. Once Rodrygo gets his next goal, more than likely the floodgates will open and the confidence will come pouring into his game.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kvaratshelia is over-performing his xG by 5 goals. His professional career before this season has never seen him score more than 4 goals. Both players will eventually revert to the mean.
The comparison goes deeper than just expected goals and assists. Both players are near identical in the number of shots they take, the % of shots on target, and all of their progression metrics.
Rodrygo matches Kvara with about 2 key passes per 90, he betters him on passes into the final third. as well as carries into the final third. The Brazilian produces more shot-creating actions, but takes on the 1 v 1 challenge far less than his Georgian counter-part — though Rodrygo’s numbers sky rocket when playing on the left.
The data speaks for itself. Rodrygo and the “flavor of the month”, Kvaratskhelia, are statistically very similar. From a recrutiment standpoint, it makes little to no sense to invest in the Napoli winger with Rodrygo already a part of the roster. Go to an alternate universe, where Rodrygo is slotted into this Napoli team in place of Kvara and given the same amount of freedom and trust, you would likely see the Brazilian put up similar numbers. Instead of looking abroad, Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid should give the 22-year-old a consistent starting role in the attack, they may just find that Rodrygo is a star in his own right.