Stoppage Time: Lavezzi sparking Napoli at right time

When attempting to quantify the ability of Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi it has always been about more than the numbers.

The Argentina international has emerged as one of the hottest commodities in Europe despite a goal-scoring record that doesn't exactly jump off the page.

Lavezzi emerged as a top-tier player last season when he helped lead Napoli to a place in the Champions League with a team-high 12 assists while also chipping in six goals.

But for a player with Lavezzi's considerable talent, it was difficult to figure out why he hadn't been more prolific in front of the goal, having failed to net 10 goals in a season for Napoli since joining the club in 2007.

The 26-year-old scored only three times prior to the winter break, and when Napoli hit a bit of a skid in the league and fell down the table in January, Lavezzi took some heat for his lack of scoring prowess.

It's no coincidence then that Napoli has won its last four games in all competitions at the same time that Lavezzi has found his scoring touch, making the team a threat to not only return to Europe's premier club competition next season but also to make some noise in this year's edition.

Napoli emerged from the toughest group in the Champions League to reach the knockout round, and although they were drawn with a struggling Chelsea side, many observers still felt the English club had the upper hand.

However, the first leg of the match-up in Italy last week saw Napoli carve up the Chelsea defense in a 3-1 win, with Lavezzi netting two goals.

It was the best performance of the season from the former San Lorenzo man and he followed it up on Sunday by scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Inter Milan that moved Napoli to within five points of a place in the top three.

With four goals in his last three games Lavezzi is clearly in his best run of form this season, but didn't really have an explanation as to why.

"I don't think I have changed anything in the way I play, I just know that I have to score more often and I'm working hard in training to finish better when I have chances," he told uefa.com.

Whatever the reason for Lavezzi's spike in production, Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri has to be salivating at the thought of another potent scorer to go alongside Edinson Cavani, who leads the team with 15 goals this campaign.

"I'm very happy for Lavezzi," Mazzarri said. "He's made giant steps and is now scoring more frequently. He is more mature. If he keeps improving like this, there won't be many players better than him because his ability in dribbling past opponents and creating chances for his teammates will always be there."

Lavezzi's ability as a creator has never been in question. But if his newfound penchant for finding the back of the net continues, it will take some of the scoring burden off Cavani and make Napoli a more balanced team.

The increase in production is a big lift for Napoli, although it also will bring about interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs, who figure to circle around Lavezzi this summer like sharks.

In the meantime, Lavezzi will be focused on helping Napoli climb the Serie A table and trying to lead the club to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time.

Doing so would be a nice achievement, but if Lavezzi continues to score goals at his current pace, the numbers will speak for themselves.