ROME — First there was Edinson Cavani. Then came Gonzalo Higuain. Now it’s Arkadiusz Milik’s turn to take over the scoring duties at Napoli.
Quickly making Higuain’s Italian-record 90 million euro ($99 million) transfer to Juventus a distant memory, Milik scored two headers as Napoli came from behind to beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“It was a magical night for me and a perfect evening for the entire squad,” Milik said.
Add the goals from Kiev to the pair he scored in a 4-2 win over AC Milan in Serie A and Milik has four from only seven shots on target this season.
That’s the kind of productivity that will spur the artisans on Naples’ famed San Gregorio Armeno street to create a Christmas figurine in Milik’s image.
Cavani figurines used to be big sellers before his move to Paris Saint-Germain three years ago, and Higuain is being treated as a public enemy after his July transfer to a domestic rival.
“I’m pleased that the Neapolitan fans are happy to have me in Azzurro but it’s only the fourth match,” Milik said. “We need to stay calm.”
While Higuain scored 36 goals last season to break a 66-year-old Serie A record, it’s possible that Milik’s finishing ability may align better with Napoli’s array of talented wingers.
At 1.86 meters (6-foot-1), Milik is slightly taller than Higuain and much more proficient on headers.
With Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne providing the crosses, three of Milik’s goals have come on headers. Last season, Napoli as a team scored only eight goals with headers.
“I’m happy with Milik but I don’t want to make unfair comparisons with Higuain,” Napoli’s second-year coach Maurizio Sarri said.
With a transfer fee of about 35 million euros ($40 million), Napoli may have got Milik from Ajax at a bargain.
The 22-year-old Poland striker scored 32 goals in 52 league matches with Ajax the last two seasons and is considered a likely successor to Robert Lewandowski, Poland’s captain and Bayern Munich standout.
Milik also scored in Poland’s 1-0 win over Northern Ireland at the European Championship.
Callejon is excelling in Higuain’s absence, too, scoring two goals in each of Napoli’s last two Serie A matches.
“We have a deeper squad this year,” Napoli defender Raul Albiol said.
Runner-up to Juventus last season, Napoli is again second through three rounds, two points back and level with Roma.
Last weekend, captain Marek Hamsik scored his 81st Serie A goal for Napoli to match the total of club great Diego Maradona. Then Callejon added two more in a 3-0 win at Palermo.
“It’s the 10th year that I’m wearing this shirt and I think Sarri’s style is the most attractive football I’ve ever played,” Hamsik said. “The squad is having fun.”
Attempting to win its first Serie A title since Maradona led the club to the “scudetto” in 1987 and 1990, Napoli next hosts a Bologna side Saturday led by former coach Roberto Donadoni that has won two of its first three matches.
Up next in the Champions League is a home game against Benfica, which drew 1-1 with Besiktas in the other Group B match Tuesday, putting Napoli in early control of the group.
“The first match is always important, especially when you win it on the road,” said Albiol, who joined Napoli three years ago from Real Madrid.
The 57-year-old Sarri spent 25 years coaching small and provincial clubs in every division of Italian football before finally hitting the big time with Napoli last season.
“It took me 25 years to get here and now it seems like I’m finally reaching the end of the road,” Sarri said before his Champions League debut. “But I’m not the type of person to get emotional. I’m not satisfied. I want to continue enjoying myself.”
Milik, so far, has provided plenty of enjoyment.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf