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Sunday July 28 2019
Analysing Napoli's ambition

Football Italia’s Chief Correspondent Richard Hall wonders if Napoli’s approach to the transfer market is proving counter-productive...

There was an air of inevitability when it emerged that Arsenal had toppled Napoli for Nicolas Pepe. All summer, the Partenopei have been looking to add a marque attacking signing to their ranks but, as yet, have failed to do so. The feeling that this year is their year to catch Juventus seems to be driving their ambition, but they have not been able to deliver. What’s next for Carlo Ancelotti’s team and why have they lost out again on another big name?

The hard part seemed to have been done. Pepe’s agents had been to Napoli’s preseason camp, a fee had been agreed. This was no easy task as Lille President Gerard Lopez announced his €80m asking price had been met. All that was left was for Pepe’s representatives to agree their commission (€10m) on top of a €5m salary. That was when Azzurri patron Aurelio De Laurentiis stalled and tried to barter with the commission, allowing Arsenal to make a bid, have it accepted (as well as the commission) and steal Pepe.

Perhaps the fact that the Gunners offered an extra €1.5m in salary was the real clincher, but Napoli could have finished this deal by now. This will be a source of frustration to Carlo Ancelotti, whose transfer window started well with the signings of Kostas Manolas and Eljif Elmas but stuttered when looking for their pièce de résistance. Their deal for James Rodriguez has also so far failed to bear fruit, despite Jorge Mendes talking to Ancelotti and Napoli’s representatives after the Coach said, ‘there is neither optimism nor pessimism, we'll see what happens.’

This could be a major blow to the Partenopei as Real Madrid now look like taking James off the market. Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli was under strict orders to only take the Colombian on loan – a move Los Blancos were not interested in as they instead they wanted to stick to their €42m asking price. Has Napoli’s slow approach now hurt them twice in securing two major deals?

So, what next for the Neapolitans? There is still talk of Mauro Icardi moving to play his football at the San Paolo, but Ancelotti - while praising his abilities - was cool on the subject of talks. In fairness, the Argentine’s unwillingness to leave Inter, despite being told there is no place for him, could mean this is one of the only deals that could be better suited to a drawn-out process. It may be that as the transfer window closes, the urgency for the Nerazzurri to sell could see the striker move for slightly cheaper than expected. 

A more realistic option for Napoli seems like being PSV forward Hirving Lozano. The Partenopei could ultimately swoop for the Mexican with a €45m bid after having a €35m offer rejected some time ago. It will be interesting to see if the club can learn from their past mistakes and move forward quickly for a target who, like Pepe, can supply an abundance of goals from a wide position.

Perhaps the search for a big-name signing was to warn Juventus and Inter that Napoli meant business in this Scudetto race, but until now it hasn’t worked out. Instead, their stubborn and slow approach in the market has seen them miss out and it will be interesting to see if this changes. With De Laurentiis in charge, it’s doubtful as his combative style will not always work with some clubs.

Napoli should start the new season with a very effective and dangerous team, but their lofty ambitions would be matched with Icardi and one of Lozano, James and Pepe.

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Have your say...
Pinturrichio - the only garbage is tge gsrbage keyboard warrior spouting incoherence that thst you have subjected my glorioud glorious eyes too.
on the 11th August, 2019 at 3:04pm
The Manolas and Koulibaly link up will prove to be one of the most dynamic centre back pairings of the modern era. Manolas represents a younger and more fit Albiol. I agree with Ferban, ADL needs to go, give us some Saudi Arabian or Quatarian billionaire who is prepared to spend the money in order to bring in the championships this city so desperately crave.
on the 2nd August, 2019 at 3:29am
Napoli, willing to pay 80m for Pepe, but balking at speninding 42m for James, then willing to pay 42m for Lozano. They could by both James and Lozano for the money quoted for Pepe. If they built a stadium, even a 40-45,000 seater, it would be a game changer with their fierce fans. Yet when ADL spoke about one a few years ago it was a 20,000 seater. Trying really hard to understand ADL. Like Ferban said, it may be he has taken Napoli as far as he can...
on the 31st July, 2019 at 7:39pm
Also, the money they did spend is on Manolas. Let's see if he's finally as good as people think he is, because no matter what you think he's been more responsible for Roma's defensive frailties than Fazio, for instance. He's not a good center back.

Maybe he's talented tho. But I don't think he's good or will be that good for Napoli.
on the 29th July, 2019 at 3:31pm
Real shame that people who don't like Napoli just come on here to talk like idiots. Our messages are always pending review, yet these people get thru?

Napoli is not getting James, as I've said all along. Because De Laurentiis is that way. It's on him. When they spent money on Higuain, they had even MORE money from Cavani.

6 years later James would cost the same as Higuain did. But this is too much? Add image rights. Joke. Add Ancelotti, and this is difficult.

Could very well miss top 4.
on the 29th July, 2019 at 3:29pm
Napoli would have won more titles if there was no corruption in italian football. Here I'm obviously talking juve.
on the 29th July, 2019 at 3:09pm
Napoli need a stadium but ADL won’t do it.
on the 29th July, 2019 at 9:01am
I believe Wanda Icardi would bring more harm to Napoli dressroom than good for the pitch. I don't want them in Naples. Just think about ADL vs. Wanda bubblegum-press stories.
on the 29th July, 2019 at 8:51am
If by "ambition" the author means "Napoli talk smack as if they've won more Scudetti than all other Italian clubs combined + more CL titles than half of Europe, but in reality are a nothing but a loser club which will never amount to anything" then, yes, Napoli have ambition.

ADL is a pathetic piece of garbage-brained nincompoop - the keyword being garbage, 1 word which summarizes Naples' footballing mentality and their streets.

Not buying either James or Pepe is perfect for this joker club.
on the 29th July, 2019 at 7:16am
A new 45.000 stadium is imperative if Napoli want to become a contender in Italy and Serie A,
on the 28th July, 2019 at 11:30pm
We need Icardi and one of James/Lozano. Otherwise the season is over before it started. Just like last year.
on the 28th July, 2019 at 10:58pm
Napoli should do everything in their power to construct a new 45.000 seater stadium.
on the 28th July, 2019 at 10:52pm
Napoli are not always stubborn and slow in negotiations.

They wrapped up DiLorenzo, Manolas and Elmas very quickly as they were important targets.

Napoli moved quickly on Pepe but just seem to be Arsenal more willing to pay commission to his "representatives".

James and Icardi were always going to be complicated transactions that need very careful consideration regarding James commercial image rights bs and Icardi's well known issues.
on the 28th July, 2019 at 9:09pm
As for James, I can understand the apprehension. The Columbian is a very fragile player. If you look up his injury record you'll see why. He made only 43 appearances for Bayern during his two year loan: there's a reason why Bayern didn't make it a permanent deal. Sometimes I think ADL makes these high profile bids just for the sake of drama (& to shift season tickets)and has no intention of seeing them through. I agree with those that say that ADL has hit his ceiling.
on the 28th July, 2019 at 7:21pm
It's not just a question about their ambition, but their focus too. They are really lacking a defensive midfielder. Allan is the only player in that position who possesses dynamism and physicality. If the coach perseveres with the 4231, even with Koulibaly and Manolas in defense, they will ship a lot of goals because the protection in front of them looks to be almost non-existent. As things stand, it wouldn't surprise me if Napoli struggle to finish in the four.
on the 28th July, 2019 at 7:07pm
Good point Ferban....Napoli was prestigious club back in 80s - early 90s in Serie A and through out world football... as they boasted some great future stars and one Diego Maradona in his prime.
Then somehow crumbled over time. ADL did a marvelous job getting them back to prominence the garbage filled streets of Naples.
Definitely deserved a Serie A title,but alas we saw how that went.
To me Icardi would be a perfect pick up for them. follow in footsteps of other great Argentine strikers.
on the 28th July, 2019 at 6:04pm
I REALLY CAN'T understand why Napoli didn't buy out James right away (let's be rea; in today's market, 42mil is a small price for a player of his caliber). I haven't watch Lozano so much, just read his impressive numbers! But nevertheless, if they were ready to give 80 mil for Pepe, who not be ready to give half that for James?!
Also, Icardi would be an ideal striker for them! With their style, he could assure 20-30 goals per season! And they NEED THAT, just as HE DOES! but James must come too
on the 28th July, 2019 at 4:12pm
ADL has probably taken Napoli as far as he can after doing a great job taking them from the abyss to where they are now.

But in recent years he doesn't seem to be able to get these big deals over the line. Losing out to the likes of Europa League Arsenal means they have no hope of beating off the really big sides.

Lozano and Icardi (despite his issues) could be very good for Napoli, but don't be surprised to see one or both of them fall through too, considering it might take 100m to land both
on the 28th July, 2019 at 1:45pm

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