With Valon Behrami sold to Hamburg, Steve Mitchell assesses the importance of Napoli signing an adequate replacement.
With a vital Champions League qualifier on the horizon, Napoli Coach Rafa Benitez still has a gaping hole in the centre of his midfield after Valon Behrami was sold to Hamburg last week. Various high profile names have been linked with a move to the Vesuviani, but as the team returned home last week in readiness for the visit of PAOK Salonika in a friendly at the San Paolo, many tifosi seem worried that the club has been a little premature in selling one of its prized assets. The simple fact is Gokhan Inler as the Vesuviani’s other combative Swiss central midfielder now needs a wing man, and quick.
One continued possibility to be re-united with his old boss is Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva. The 27-year-old Brazilian now looks surplus to requirements at Anfield as club captain Steven Gerrard takes up a more defensive role and Benitez has made no secret of the fact that he would love to have the former Gremio star in his team for next season. Under the Spaniard’s tutelage, Leiva was outstanding in the Premier League and it seems the respect remains mutual between the two, in the hope of a potential move to Serie A.
Another man at the top of the Spaniard’s shopping list is German World Cup winner Christoph Kramer. The 6’3” powerhouse has had a rapid rise to fame culminating with summer glory in Brazil, but at present his future looks to be very much in the Bundesliga.
The big Napoli story to hit the headlines in recent days has been the possible signing of want-away Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini. President Aurelio De Laurentiis was quick to deflect any immediate debate away from a possible move and more towards the Belgium international’s hairstyle, but over the weekend reports suggest the deal could now go ahead.
Whatever the reasons behind his decision to leave and there have been several reports of a falling out with his manager, the loss of Behrami has come at a critical time in the club’s pre-season preparations. The 29-year-old’s struggles with form and fitness last term was felt in the team. But, in the Champions League he was outstanding, notably in providing the dirty work to allow the likes of Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon the opportunity to display their abundant array of skills in the final third of the field.
Whoever does come into the squad for the coming season has some big shoes to fill. Many fans of the Partenopei will hope that Benitez does not regret the decision to offload a player of the highest quality before ensuring his replacement’s capture first.