Hamsik comparable to Maradona as closes in on scoring record

Napoli's Marek Hamsik and Bologna's Emil Krafth, left, vie for the ball during the italian serie A soccer match between Bologna and Napoli at the "Dall'Ara" stadium in Bologna, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Giorgio Benvenuti/ANSA via AP)

MILAN — Marek Hamsik is, sort of, Napoli’s modern day Diego Maradona.

Hamsik scored his 114th goal for Napoli in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Cagliari to move to within one of Maradona’s club record, set between 1984 and 1991.

The goal also broke Hamsik’s scoring drought. This season was the first time in his 11 years at the club that the Slovakia international had reached October without scoring.

"I really want to match Diego, but at this point it’s not something impossible. When it happens it happens," Hamsik said. "I missed scoring but the team’s results are more important."

The goal also saw the 30-year-old Hamsik emulate another one of Napoli’s iconic scorers, Attila Sallustro, by scoring in 11 consecutive seasons at the club.

While Hamsik may have been struggling in front of goal recently, Napoli certainly hasn’t. The result against Cagliari means Napoli has now outscored its opponents 25-5 with at least three goals in each of the team’s Italian league games this season.

Napoli is now the only side with a perfect record in Serie A after six-time defending champion Juventus drew 2-2 at Atalanta.

After finishing in the top three spots in five of the last seven seasons, Napoli is looking more and more like it could win its first title since Maradona led the club to its only two Serie A championships in 1987 and 1990.

"Seven victories in seven matches is something incredible. The road is still long but we are confident," Hamsik said. "This is the strongest and nicest team in which I have played because we are aware of our strengths and that we can fight for the title until the end.

"October will be a decisive month. We have to play many decisive matches both in the league and in the Champions League."

After the international break, Napoli faces title rivals Roma and Inter Milan in the league, on either side of a tough test against Manchester City in Europe’s elite club competition.

And Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri will be delighted to have his captain back in form in front of goal.

"He’s a star player," Sarri said. "Marek can have a month where he’s not at his best but then he is back to being how he always is and when that’s the case everything is easier for us."

Sarri, however, was eager to play down his side’s title chances.

"It’s been six years that people have been saying we could bother Juventus but in the end they still win, which means that they’re still a step above everyone else," Sarri said. "We’ve played seven matches, which is just 40 days of the season. Let’s see how things develop long-term. Anyone can do it for a month, few for six months and only one squad for a year."

But, going back to last season, Napoli has now won 12 consecutive Serie A games, scoring 42 and conceding only nine. It is also undefeated in 19, a better run than it had from the end of the 1988-89 season to the beginning of 1989-90 — at the end of which the southern side won its second league title.

If it goes on to win its third, Hamsik will take up his rightful place next to Maradona at the top of the list of Napoli greats.