Saturday January 7 2017
Napoli need to spend

Napoli have Leonardo Pavoletti, but require more reinforcements to achieve their aims this season, writes Richard Thomas.

Given the circumstances, the first half of Napoli's season can be considered a success. Despite the damaging loss of the talismanic Gonzalo Higuain back in August, Maurizio Sarri's team lie third in the Serie A table and are the leading scorers in Italy's top flight. They were also able to secure Champions League progress from a tough group, with a Round of 16 meeting with Real Madrid now awaiting on the horizon.

So what issues will the Napoli hierarchy be looking to address as we enter the January transfer window? They will hope they have already found the solution to one of them, with the arrival of forward Leonardo Pavoletti from Genoa to be confirmed. Following the loss of Higuain and the long-term injury to his replacement Arkadiusz Milik, the 28-year-old will add some much-needed strength in depth to his Coach's forward line options.

However, it may be prudent for President Aurelio De Laurentiis to also consider a second attacking signing. Milik has still not returned since suffering knee ligament damage early in the season, Pavoletti himself does not have the greatest injury record and Manolo Gabbiadini is all but certain to leave the club.

Dries Mertens, currently on a remarkable streak of eight goals in his last three matches, has done well as a makeshift forward, but Napoli would be well advised to bring in an additional body to be sure they avoid the sort of crisis up front that saw them linked with the likes of then-free agent Federico Macheda earlier in the campaign.

The centre of defence is another area in need of upgrading. When Napoli's season resumes with a home match against Sampdoria, Sarri will be unable to call on the services of any of his three first choice centre-backs. Vlad Chiriches has picked up a thigh injury, Raul Albiol is suspended, while Kalidou Koulibaly will be missing for up to a month at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Nikola Maksimovic and Lorenzo Tonelli have barely featured since signing over the summer, but the Partenopei's defence appears vulnerable and shipped six goals in their final two matches before the winter break. Faouzi Ghoulam's temporary absence at left-back - like Koulibaly he is AFCON bound - will also have to be accounted for.

Elsewhere, Napoli are said to be keen on recruiting a goalkeeper who would provide both cover and serious competition for Pepe Reina. Current back-up shot-stoppers Rafael and Luigi Sepe are highly unlikely to usurp or even exert pressure on the Spaniard at any point soon, so De Laurentiis and sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli will look further afield.

Names touted as possible options include Genoa's Mattia Perin. According to reports, the 24-year-old has expressed a desire to move to the San Paolo and would certainly be an upgrade on what the Azzurri currently have. Also said to be on the club's radar is Wolfsburg's Koen Casteels and Atalanta shot-stopper Marco Sportiello.

Overhauling Juventus for the Scudetto may appear a remote possibility in the extreme, but if Napoli can repeat the trick of qualifying for European football's premier club competition, enjoy an extended run in the Coppa Italia and at least give a good account of themselves against world champions Real Madrid, it will have been another fine season for Sarri. If they can make the reinforcements they need, the Partenopei have every chance of achieving their aims.

Have your say...
Which starting squad you bet for the Madrit fight? Naples seem to be very strong in attacking force, but weak in defences. Should Arek Milik be kept on the bench (as a possible joker), regarding latest Naples quality?
on the 12th February, 2017 at 11:43am
Yeah, but those who have built new stadiums have lost their souls. There's no way you can let the San Paulo die when the great man himself produced so many amazing moments there.

Look at the modern stadiums of Arsenal, Juve, Man City etc. Those stadiums could belong to any team. They have no character.

I'd love to see ADL be different and not follow the money, but stick with tradition. Seriously, the San Paulo is a monster, and if enough money is put in, it would be phenomamal.
on the 8th January, 2017 at 11:51pm
Don't spend a penny renovating a dead corpse like San Paolo. Napoli need a smaller stadium, 48.000, without running tracks. History counts for nothing with running tracks. Most other clubs today have built new stadiums.
on the 8th January, 2017 at 10:59pm
Agree regarding the stadium. Money needs spent there, but hopefully they stay put and completely renovate the San Paulo. Way too much history there. However, the fans may leave the club no choice but to move unless they start upping the attendance. Yesterday's large amount of empty seats was horrendous.
on the 8th January, 2017 at 9:22pm
I agree with Maradonamac the season is a great success so far and I had Naples pegged for a Europa League spot and a humiliating exit from the Champions League.

Even if they lose to Real Madrid quite badly but manage a 3rd place finish I would say the season is an incredible achievement.
on the 7th January, 2017 at 11:00pm
Better save the money and build a 48.000 seater arena without running tracks for 100-150 mill.
on the 7th January, 2017 at 9:27pm
I can only see the need for napoli to go out and buy a goalkeeper at the moment maybe a left back if ghoulam leaves. If anything if they are to upgrade they would need to let go and a few players first considering the size of their squad. the only possible exception could be if pavoletti is a flop. They might need a wide player to replace Gabbiadini if he leaves.
on the 7th January, 2017 at 6:14pm
I agree sign Perin NOW. Everything else in this article is pointless. Mattia Perin is a game changer.
on the 7th January, 2017 at 2:48pm
Napoli are having a GREAT season. Losing Higuain, losing Milik, and still we're sitting nicely in 3rd and have the most goals scored in Serie A. Oh, and qualified for the CL last 16 after topping the group. So all in all, GREAT stuff.

Why buy another CB? We will have 5 to pick from when available. We've just added an Italian Intl fwd, Milik will be back in a matter of weeks, and Mertens is on fire.

The real issue is GK. We signed a Bayern sub to be our #1. He's not good enough. Sign Perin now
on the 7th January, 2017 at 5:04am

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