Gattuso hints Napoli star could leave this month

Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly has been strongly linked with moves to Manchester City, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain for a while now.

The 29-year-old played in their 2020-21 Serie A season-opening win over Parma on Sunday. Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne scored in the second half of a 2-0 win at the Stadio Ennio Tardini.

Speaking after the game, Napoli coach Gino Gattuso told Sky Sports Italia:

“I had no doubts, he is one of the strongest champions in the world in his role.

“He has always given me great availability and always trains well. I would be sorry to lose him, both for the man and for the player.

“But you know that numbers are important for clubs and at this moment something needs to be done for numbers, but I’d be happy to keep him.”

Kalidou Koulibaly has been widely-expected to leave during this transfer window, particularly as Napoli failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League; something the three aforementioned clubs can offer him this season.

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Three Bold Predictions Ahead of the New Season

The new Serie A season is officially upon us and is shaping up for another enthralling year of action. Juventus appear to be in a transtion year, but has bolstered their roster significantly already while Inter will be hoping to pip their rivals to the Scudetto after falling short last season.

Milan enters the new year confident as ever, having just secured two impressive young talents in Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz and will be hoping to return to the Champions League. The capital-based clubs,  Roma and Lazio, will duke it out once more and will be right there with Milan in the race for top four. The biggest question mark going into the new season remains Atalanta and whether they can replicate last season’s impressive exploits.

Without further ado, here are three bold predictions going into the new season:

Sassuolo to qualify for the Europa League: 

Roberto De Zerbi’s men finished last season on a high note and nearly cracked Italy’s top seven. Sassuolo has managed to keep its stars this offseason, notably Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga, and possess one of the league’s most underrated number nines in Ciccio’ Caputo. The Neroverdi also rebuffed Juve’s advances for Manuel Locatelli and will be going into the new season hoping their midfield dynamo can supply their high-powered front three.

De Zerbi has demonstrated he can get the most of Sassuolo’s roster and will be hoping to guide them into contention for the Europa League. The competition will be stiff considering Milan, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, and arguably Fiorentina will all be in the mix depending on their respective seasons, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say Sassuolo will qualify for the Europa League.

A Coppa Italia triumph counts!

Victor Osimhen as capocannoniere: 

Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo pushed each other to new heights in last season’s capocannoniere race but will have more company this time around. Napoli’s record signing Victor Osimhen is ready to take the next step in his career and lead the Partenopei’s line to devastating effect. The Nigerian international broke onto the scene last season with 17 goals in all competitions and will slot in seamlessly in Napoli’s dynamic frontline.

Immobile and Ronaldo relied heavily on penalties to inflate their scoring records last season, and one of them will likely slow down as a result. Osimhen is an outside bet for leading goalscorer, but given his skillset and Napoli’s counterattacking style, the former Lille man will have many scoring opportunities. Romelu Lukaku is another striker worth monitoring in this race but is a far safer bet in this respect.

Achraf Hakimi and Edin Dzeko to be tied for assists: 

Hakimi’s signing is one that takes Inter to the next level, as the Morrocan international will provide quality and a deadly final ball from a wingback position. Last season, the former Dortmund man registered an impressive ten assists and will look to translate his efforts in Conte’s 3-5-2.

Dzeko, on the other hand, is more known for his ability to find the back of the net, but evolved his game and has since emerged as an elite creator as well. The Bosnian international finished last season with 11 assists, indicating his playmaking threat. Dzeko is reportedly nearing a move to Juventus and will slot in wonderfully alongside Ronaldo, Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski.

Both Dzeko and Hakimi will be eager to replicate last season’s output and should be in a good position to do so. They may not top Luis Alberto or Papu Gomez’s tallies, but they will definitely be up there with Serie A’s deadliest creators.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round One

Bologna: Gary Medel is suspended and is also recovering from a grade one strain in the semimembranosus muscle on the right thigh, therefore he could miss week two as well.

Cagliari: Luca Ceppitelli, Filip Bradaric and Kiril Despodov are quarantining after catching COVID-19 in late August. Gaston Pereiro suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in the right foot about two weeks ago and he has a 45-day timetable. Alessandro Deiola is recovering from a clean-up surgery on the right knee he had during his time at Lecce. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round One

FIORENTINA-TORINO

Fiorentina: despite not changing all that much, the Viola have brought in some new interesting pieces during the transfer market window, such as Sofyan Amrabat, who is suspended in this one, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi, who seems poised to stay after a solid season at Inter. However, their coach and attack are the same, which means we can expect something akin to what happened in the restart, where Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli served as the main playmakers, Federico Chiesa was the most consistent scorer, while Christian Kouame, Dusan Vlahovic and Patrick Cutrone, all capable but otherworldly strikers, fight for one spot. The ex-Genoa forward seems to have separated himself from the pack a little during the summer. Bonaventura is supremely sneaky.

Suggested picks: Chiesa, Ribery, Kouame. Continue reading

Man City near Koulibaly signing to shore up defence

Following Leo Messi‘s decision to stay in Barcelona, the management of Manchester City is fully committed to bringing in a defender in the form of Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli. The two clubs are expected to reach a final agreement on the transfer of the defender for €75 million, which will be the highest transfer in the history of Man City, even more than the transfer of Kevin de Bruyne from Wolfsburg.

Although Napoli has so far rejected two offers from City, worth €65 million and €68 million, it seems that the offer of €75 million will be accepted by Aurelio De Laurentiis, who initially demanded for as much as €100 million for the Senegalese.

With this transfer, Koulibaly will become the fifth most expensive defender in history. Harry Maguire is undisputed as the most expensive defender, with his transfer from Leicester City to Manchester United for €87 million. Juventus paid €85.5 million for Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax, Liverpool paid Southampton €84.6 million for Virgil van Dijk and €80 million was paid by Bayern Munich for Lucas Hernandez to Atletico Madrid.

As for the salary of the Senegalese, it is speculated that €9 million has been agreed with possible bonuses of €3 million depending on the results of the team.

After the departure of Vincent Kompany, the central defensive position became one of the most vulnerable spots in Guardiola’s squad. Without the experienced captain, there was a lack of stability in City’s defense, which was visible throughout last season. Given that City’s owners are only interested in winning, it was clear that the Citizens would again be very active in the transfer market.

Besides Koulibaly, City also targeted Dayot Upamecano from Leipzig, but the Senegalese’s leadership skills are what they really need. While it cannot be expected that only one player can close the gap between City and Liverpool who dominated the Premier League last season, bringing in the 29 year-old would be a huge step forward in that direction.

Koulibaly was one of the key players behind the rise of Napoli in the last few seasons, who have established themselves as regular participants in the Champions League and one of Juventus’ main competitors in Serie A.

Almost all of the top European clubs were interested in signing the central defender and it seems that Napoli have finally made the decision to part ways with their best player. With the funds from the transfer, Gennaro Gattuso will be able to improve other positions in his team, and the fact that Koulibaly will go to England, and not to one of the competitors in the domestic championship goes in their favour.

Koulibaly started his career in Metz’s second team, but very soon made his debut in the first team as a 19-year-old after manager Dominique Bijotat recognized his great potential. After three seasons in the French championship, he moved to Genk where he spent two seasons, and in 2014 he moved to Napoli for a transfer of €6.5 million. Under the leadership of the manager Maurizio Sarri, Koulibaly has grown from a solid footballer to one of Seire A’s top players.

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Is James Rodriguez the right player to improve Everton?

Everton have started moving in the transfer circles after a disappointing last season and a slightly underwhelming one even once Italian legend Carlo Ancelotti stepped into the dug out.

And now Everton under Ancelotti are set to sign their first let’s say dazzling player in James Rodriguez. He who seduced Real Madrid into once paying over 60m euros for his services. Such was the excitement around the player that 45,000 Madrid fans turned up just to his induction. Though Rodriguez had a decent first two seasons with Los Blancos his influence soon tallied off in the heated atmosphere of that famous midfield which at the time included Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric. Still James as he is fondly known won 9 trophies with the club including 2 Champions Leagues. And it was Ancelotti who brought him to Madrid.

He later played for Napoli also under Ancelotti and that is why Everton fans will be optimistic of the players arrival. It has been reported that Everton are closing in on the Colombian’s signature and it seems at least from the outside that this would be a major signing for the Merseysiders and to top it off James is only 29.

So Ancelotti and Rodriguez know each other very well and that is already a great start. The problem is that whilst Rodriguez has been brilliant at times for every club he has played for he hasn’t really shown that brilliance over the course of a season. Could that be a problem? Are Everton going to break their wage allowance for a player akin to a Ferrari that revs his engines up when he feels like it but plays in gear 1 on a Tuesday evening away to Southampton?

In all honesty history says Everton are going to get a player that performs brilliantly well for a third of the season. At the same time maybe that will just do the club fine at this present time. Rodriguez is going to show the fans some wonderful tricks and goals. Maybe a superb free kick here and there and his hooking up with the likes of Richarlison when everything clicks will make Everton look like a top 6 side. Whether they will finish there is another matter.

Everton are also in the hunt for Allan the Brazilian midfielder who currently plays for Napoli. Allan is set to have a medical this week and should join for around 25m euros. And finally the club are also in talks with Watford who were relegated last season for their midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure.

If anything Everton are moving in the transfer market, and that will make their fans happy as they try to finish in the top half of the table next season.

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Napoli the losers in Allan deal

There’s an art form to knowing when to sell players. The selling club must navigate a fine line, to dance their finest tango, in a bid to make sure they produce a sizeable profit. Generally there are three roads for them to take.

The first road usually ends in the club striking prematurely, accepting a good offer rather than holding on for another season or two in the hope that player X develops even more and commands an even bigger figure. The second road tends to end with the club striking when the iron is hottest. This scenario is when player X is at the absolute pinnacle of their game, combined with them being relatively young and there is ample room to shift the player on in the future. Continue reading

Three Players to look out for in the new season

With the new season fast approaching in under a month’s time, it’s as good a time as any to look forward and prepare ourselves for another rollercoaster. Last season, the calcio faithful witnessed the rise of many unfamiliar faces, including the likes of Gaetano Castrovilli and Sandro Tonali among others.

As it is the case every season, there’s always a few talents that break through and take the next step in their careers. Without further ado, here are three players – all of whom you may be familiar with – that are primed for a breakout year.

Musa Barrow (Bologna): 

The Bologna striker moved to Emilia-Romagna in the January transfer window and has had an immediate impact for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men, netting nine goals in 14 starts. After using the second half of the season to acclimate himself to his new surroundings, expect Barrow to hit the ground running and could potentially fire a young Bologna side into an unlikely race for European football.

The former Atalanta striker is as dynamic as they come in the final third and has demonstrated a keen eye for goal over the course of his short career. Capable of finishing with both feet, Barrow is definitely one to watch next year. With Orsolini and Rodrigo Palacio playing off him, Mihajlovic’s men possess one of the league’s most intriguing frontlines.

Christian Kouame, Fiorentina:

The Fiorentina forward returned to action at the tail end of last season, after being sidelined for a significant part of the year recovering from an ACL tear. Prior to his injury, Kouame broke onto the scene as a relatively unknown youngster and took the Serie A by storm. Fiorentina is coming off a disappointing season, but with Kouame back to full fitness and with a full preseason in his legs, the Ivorian is ready to lead the line for La Viola.

Kouame is at his best when acting in a tandem with another striker, opening the possibility for a potential partnership with Dusan Vlahovic or Patrick Cutrone. The former Genoa man will be raring to go when the season starts and will be hoping to lead Fiorentina back into the upper echelon of Italian football.

Victor Osimhen, Napoli: 

The Nigerian international has already won over the Napoli faithful, scoring a hat-trick seven minutes and 33 seconds into his debut in a friendly on Friday. In many ways, he has picked up from where exactly he left off before his big-money move which bodes well for Gennaro Gattuso’s men. Osimhen is coming off an incredible season with Lille, where he scored 18 goals in all competitions, and he will be eager to translate that form to Napoli.

At Napoli, Osimhen will have the opportunity to form a truly deadly front three with Lorenzo Insigne and Hirving Lozano and will have the possibility to learn from the experienced Dries Mertens. He may have cost nearly 50 million euros, but Osimhen is the real deal and will undoubtedly show that with the Partenopei next season.

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One Transfer Target For Italy’s Top Five

Italy’s top sides have been extremely active this transfer window as they look to significantly bolster their ranks. Inter have already signed Achraf Hakimi, Juve have secured Arthur and Dejan Kulusevski while Napoli brought in Victor Osimhen.

Regardless of their early activity, Italy’s giants are still in the market for unique opportunities. Without further ado, here’s one player each of Italy’s top five should sign before the mercato closes.

1) Juventus: Houssem Aouar. 

The Lyon midfielder showed the world why he’s one of football’s most highly-rated talents last month, propelling the Ligue 1 side into the Champions League semifinals. However, as Juninho, Lyon’s sporting director, highlighted in his post-game press conference, Aouar is available this transfer window and Juventus should do everything it takes to get the French international to Turin.

Lyon has set the asking price at 50 million euros for their star man, which represents fair market value in an inflated window. Given Juve’s midfield woes, Aouar should be their number one target – even after Weston McKennie’s arrival. It may not be feasible financially, but Aouar would finally allow the Turin-based giants to put their midfield problems once and for all.

2) Inter – Emerson

Inter have done extremely well in recent transfer windows, significantly improving their roster with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Nicolo Barella, and Christian Eriksen among others. Antonio Conte’s men competed on all fronts this season, reaching the Europa League final, but now need to take the next step.

The Nerazzurri’s midfield is arguably the best in Italy while their defense finished with the best record this season. Regardless, Inter could use a new left wingback and have since been linked with Chelsea’s Emerson. The former Roma man is already familiar with Italian football and would come at a relatively low cost. Reuniting with Conte could help Emerson get his career back on track and help Inter address a longstanding need.

3) Milan - Sandro Tonali

Milian could arguably use another center-back to add depth to their existing ranks, but should not pass up the chance to sign Sandro Tonali. Inter are reportedly in pole position for the Brescia midfielder, but Milan has recently emerged in the race, according to recent reports. The Nerazzurri need to sell some of their unwanted players before presenting Brescia with an offer while Milan should take the opportunity to pounce. Brescia, however, would prefer to include an obligation to buy in the deal, which Milan is currently considering.

Despite disagreements over the formula of the deal, Tonali should be Milan’s number one target. The Italian international has proven to be an incredible talent this season with Brescia and will compliment Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie in the midfield. Given his 35 million euros price tag, Tonali could just be the steal of the summer.

4) Napoli – Sergio Reguilon 

Napoli has been proactive this transfer window, already securing Andrea Petagna, Amir Rrahmani, and Victor Osimhen. Gennaro Gattuso’s men have since been linked with a plethora of leftbacks across the globe, including Sevilla’s Sergio Reguilon. The Spanish international has taken football by storm this season, bombing up and down the left flank at will.

If recent reports are to be believed, Napoli could get a deal done for Reguilon at a good price. With Faouzi Ghoulam slowing down, they can use depth out wide and the Sevilla man could offer just that.

5) Roma – Chris Smalling

This one’s a rather obvious one, but Roma must do what it takes to bring back Chris Smalling to the club. The Englishman was arguably the Giallorossi’s best centreback this season and formed an uncompromising partnership with Gianluca Mancini. As the season approaches, Roma should stop haggling over the final price and pay Manchester United’s valuation for the defender.

If they cannot agree to a price, they can then shift their attention to Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla. Inter have been heavily linked with the defender, but given they have other priorities, Roma would be wise to insert themselves in a deal for him.

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Jose Callejon – Serie A’s best signing of the last decade?

Recall the scene: Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne would receive the ball down on the left hand channel of the opponent’s half. Insigne would take several touches, cut inside and delicately float a beautifully weighted diagonal pass behind the opposition defence and into the stride of Jose Callejon on the right hand side, who’d timed his run impeccably.

Callejon would either take one of two options: he’d instantly kill the ball with his first touch and shoot at goal, or roll it across for Napoli’s central striker to tap it in. Throughout the Maurizio Sarri era, this scenario played out seemingly two or three times a game, with a goal usually the end result. Continue reading