The January transfer window has arrived, bringing along with it a slew of rumours to keep tifosi entertained during Serie A’s three-week break. Included in the gossip is the fate of Napoli right-back Elseid Hysaj.
Hysaj followed Maurizio Sarri in joining Napoli from Empoli back in 2015, in a deal that cost the Partenopei €5m. Since then, he has made over 100 appearances for the Campanian-side and been an important part of their defence. Aurelio De Laurentiis could be seeing a massive profit incoming, however, as the Albanian has become less and less important to Carlo Ancelotti.
The club brought in Kevin Malcuit as a back-up to Hysaj, but recently the Frenchman has been utilised more often than the man he was brought in to cover for. Malcuit’s performances as of late have put Hysaj in the rear-view mirror, as he has only played a total of four times in the past 10 games.
In addition to Malcuit’s ascension, Ancelotti’s tactical decisions haven’t favoured the 24-year-old either. The boss often opts to play Nikola Maksimovic, so as to have a back three system when his side attacks. This approach was mostly seen in the Champions League, where Hysaj only played three times (with only one start) during Napoli’s run in the group stage.
Hysaj’s lack of game time prompted the exit rumours, with agent Mario Giufreddi voicing his frustrations to Radio Marte. “The facts say that Elseid for Ancelotti is not so important.” Giufreddi went on to discuss how promises made by Ancelotti in the summer prevented Hysaj from following Sarri yet again to Chelsea, making the situation even more frustrating.
Now, a move is seemingly back on the cards for the Albanian full-back. Hysaj’s unrest at Napoli has reignited Chelsea’s interest, with the London-based club looking to bring him in before the close of the January window. Hysaj has been one of Serie A’s top right-backs since joining the Partenopei back in 2015, but during his time at the club his abilities have always raised questions from some Napoli supporters. Hysaj’s game has always been one plagued with inconsistencies, and going forward he isn’t the best option for Napoli’s attacking style.
Much of this was put on display last season following Faouzi Ghoulam’s injury. Much of Napoli’s attack came through their left flank, but with Ghoulam out, they tried the same approach on the other side of the pitch. The team’s fluidity dropped significantly after the change and it exposed many of the weaknesses in Hysaj’s game. Ancelotti deploys a similar approach when it comes to attacking.
Hysaj hasn’t seen much growth or improvement over the course of the season and as of right now that doesn’t seem likely to change. As Malcuit’s importance continues to grow from match to match, what Hysaj offers to Napoli now doesn’t match what he once offered before.
Reported fees of about €40-50m make selling Hysaj a real consideration for Aurelio De Laurentiis, and, all things considered, it’d be best for both if they parted ways. Hysaj would reunite with Sarri, while Napoli free up space for Malcuit to continue to grow.
Despite that, a possible move isn’t likely to happen until the summer. Hysaj leaving the club in the current transfer window leaves Napoli with only one right-back at the club (Sebastian Luperto is able to play on the flank, but Ancelotti will want a stronger option). Benjamin Pavard is apparently on Napoli’s radar, yet securing the young Frenchman’s signature would be a tough feat considering the number of clubs after him.
So yes, selling Hysaj would be the best decision for ADL to make. However, it isn’t a decision that will be made in the January window.