In the current climate it seems as if central defenders are what everyone is after.

Gone are the days of an out-and-out number nine being every club's favoured purchase, as mad sums get flung around as sides scour the football globe for a defensive monster to earn them those all-important clean sheets.

However, what about a offensive monster?

Because, sure as hell, that's exactly what Duvan Zapata is.


The Colombian enjoyed a barnstorming season for Atalanta as the club made history by finishing third in Serie A, reaching the Coppa Italia final and securing Champions League football for the first time.

It can be dangerous to suggest their success hinged on one player, but without Zapata's influence few would have backed the club to have reached such heights.

Finishing the season on 23 league goals, the forward also contributed with seven assists, in turn making parent club Sampdoria most certainly rue their decision to loan the striker to their Italian rivals on a two-year deal with an option to buy.

But really, why is he so good?

Prior to his move to northern Italy, the striker's best goalscoring season had come during the 2012/13 campaign when playing for Estudiantes in Argentina. Even then, his return was only 16 goals in 33 outings.

His work didn't go unnoticed though, as Napoli snapped him up in the summer of 2013 after West Ham pulled out of a deal to bring him to east London. Seven goals in 22 outings in his first season in Naples was followed by eight goals in 31 the following season, with Zapata failing to justify the move and falling behind Gonzalo Higuain and Dries Mertens in the pecking order.

A two-year loan stint at Udinese, with an option to buy, materialised in 2015 but once again a return of 19 goals in 65 appearances hardly set Serie A alight, and he duly returned to Napoli before being shipped out to Sampdoria on loan, who too had the option to purchase.

They did, after he bagged 11 goals in 31 league outings, but the club opted to send him on loan to Atalanta for (another) two-year loan with an option to buy. A mistake? Oh yes indeedy.


Zapata has been in scintillating form this year, smashing numerous records on the way to arguably the greatest season in the club's history. He scored 28 goals across all competitions and struck fear into opposing defences with some frightening displays up front.

Before a ball was even kicked, he posed a menacing figure, with a frame akin to that of a young Adebayo Akinfenwa, the Colombian stands at around 6'2", boasting immense jumping ability and strength in the air. Traits highly sought after in the physical Premier League.

While strength and presence are vital cogs in his machine-like stature, Zapata also possesses menacing pace, an attribute that had a huge influence on his teammates this season. His speed stretched the pitch for Atalanta, in turn creating more space for the likes of Alejandro Gomez to weave his magic from attacking midfield, where he notched 11 assists.

Versatility is also crucial to his performance. Now most definitely a centre forward, he played the vast majority of his youth career as a winger, something which is clear as day when you watch him play. Zapata loves to run with the ball. And he's bloody good at it.


Equally adept and bursting past players on the wing and bending in a cross, it makes the frontman a huge asset to any side, with his vast repertoire of skills seemingly knowing no end.

His work from defensive corners is pivotal too, offering a physical presence as well as height, and equally capable of a lung-bursting run up the other end when his side are on the counter attack.

Some may argue that at 28-years-old he may be finding his peak, but you just need to take a look at Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - who is still capable of blistering speed and joint top scored in the Premier League last season at the age of 30 - as an example.

As aforementioned, Zapata has broken a series of records this season on his way to becoming on of Europe's hottest properties. He netted in eight consecutive Serie A games to shatter Atalanta's club record, while also racking up 13 goals in just seven games to become the first man to do so since Antonio Angelillo in the 1958/59 season.

His scoring record is nothing to be scoffed at, but what makes it all the more remarkable is the fact he didn't notch a single goal in his opening ten league games, meaning if you remove those games he netted 23 in just 27 appearances.

Atalanta have pulled up trees to make their first appearance on Europe's biggest club stage, but you do wonder how Zapata may fare if he was supported by some more prestigious names at club's across the continent.

In no way disrespect to La Dea, but there are other players who could very well make Zapata flourish even further. 

A €45m fee is the supposed asking price, and all you need to do is ask Juventus fans whether they think he's worth that, after he tore them a new one with four goals in three games against the league champions.

While it may have been a punt a few years ago, should Zapata make a move this summer few would doubt another fine individual season for a striker known simply as 'The Black Panther'.