Several top talents are available following the completion of Serie A in Italy.
By Nick Boffa
When the transfer window opens in Italy, the action is usually taking place in cosmopolitan Milan. However, as is the case with the season just finished, nothing about this window will be “business as usual”. The transfer window will open on September 1st and will take place at the Grand Hotel in Rimini, on the Italian Riviera – pleasant surrounds indeed. The biggest clubs in world football will no doubt be casting a glance with more than a passing interest as players representing the best opportunities for strengthening squads could be on the move from current employers.
Here is a look at the selection available and the suitors expected to sidle up with an offer or two.
The Argentine forward has to be top of the list given the non-stop conjecture regarding his future. It would appear that Inter are resigned to losing the jewel in the crown of their attack and are well stocked with Romelu Lukaku and the recently-acquired Alexis Sanchez, whose loan has been made permanent. The 22-year-old arrived at Inter from Racing Club in his homeland in July 2018 and has thrived with the nerazzurri. Barcelona would seem to be the most interested but financial difficulties may scupper any deal. Spanish outlet AS report that only victory in the Champions League, and the subsequent financial windfall, would allow the Catalans to complete the deal.
Recent reports from Martinez’s agent suggest the forward, who scored 19 goals in 46 appearances this season, is happy at Inter and in no rush to move. “He’s happy where he is and he’s still got the Europa League to play for,” Carlos Beto Yaque told La Figura de la Cancha. Barca, for their part, are keen to add Martinez with the hope he will inherit the role of Luis Suarez.
More to play out here for sure; watch this space.
Another name familiar to even those with a passing interest in transfer rumours, Koulibaly looks set to move on from his successful spell at Napoli. The towering central defender is on the wish list of most clubs and he is renowned as a good passer. Unsurprisingly, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are rumoured to be very interested as the sun sets on Nicolas Otamendi and questions over the long-term prospects of John Stones. Koulibaly, born in France but captain of Senegal, would go some way to shoring up the Citizens defence as they look to fight back next season in the Premier League.
Napoli have valued the 195cm Koulibaly at €100 million and reports suggest City will go close to meeting that valuation with a significant salary hike expected for the 29-year-old. Aurelio De Laurentiis is notorious as a man who drives a hard bargain so don’t expect Koulibaly to go anywhere on the cheap. He’s not short on suitors but hard to see him ending up anywhere but the Etihad Stadium in 2020/21 although rivals Chelsea and United have both had their interest piqued.
Napoli are very keen to keep Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz at the Stadio San Paolo but the Partenopei are aware that he is a wanted man back on the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are both credited with a strong interest in Ruiz, who joined Napoli in 2018 from Real Betis for a reported €30 million. The Neapolitans see him as a crucial cog in their midfield and would be loath to lose him, which only means one thing when owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is concerned; serious offers only, no tyre-kickers.
A move back to Spain seems to be the most likely eventuality here but don’t be shocked to see the 24-year-old in sky blue again next season – Football Espana reports that he is close to signing a lucrative new deal with his current employers, no doubt with a hefty release clause included.
Another target, another Napoli player, although in this case it’s almost certain that Arkadiusz Milik has played his last game for gli azzurri. The Polish forward has enjoyed a stellar spell in Campania but with his contract running down, he looks to be on the move with plenty of prospective suitors.
De Laurentiis has accepted that Milik will leave after scoring 11 goals in 26 league games this season and Juventus and Tottenham are seriously interested. The 186cm attacker is a lethal mix of pace and strength with a powerful shot who excels at laying the ball off when playing centrally. Milik is renowned as a good finisher who is fast and aggressive and at 26-years-old, he is entering his prime years.
Napoli had assumed that Milik would be heading north to Turin in order to join the bianconeri under the tutelage of ex-manager Maurizio Sarri. Andrea Pirlo’s shock appointment may have just muddied the waters for all parties. If Milik is still available towards the end of the window, expect foreign clubs to come into the reckoning with more intent.
We move away from the Bay of Naples now and find ourselves in the Eternal City, as do suitors for Lazio hitman Felipe Caicedo. The Ecuadorian striker scored 9 goals in the league this campaign and is wanted by clubs in the Middle East and Spain, from where he arrived in Rome three years ago as he crossed from Espanyol. Caicedo found himself in a similar position last season and ended up staying in Rome to good effect so he’s no certainty to pack his bags just yet.
However, Lazio are rumoured to be casting admiring glances at Kosovan forward Vedat Muriqi of Fenerbahce so the former Manchester City player may seek a fresh opportunity elsewhere. At 31 years of age, Caicedo is somewhat of a journeyman but he is a proven goal-scorer and battle-hardened target man with experience in some Europe’s toughest leagues.
Many prospective teams will feel they could do with his services; expect no shortage of options, including staying put in Rome.
Staying in Rome with Lazio, Sergej Malinkovic-Savic will be a familiar name for many scouts looking to bolster a midfield in Europe’s top leagues. The Serbian is in demand and many powerhouses have been credited with an interest in the 25-year-old. Playing in central midfield, he contributed seven goals and seven assists in 40 appearances as Lazio challenged for the scudetto. Malinkovic-Savic is not pushing for a move away and has spoken of his desire to play Champions League with Lazio.
With Napoli bowing out of the competition, he should get his wish but Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are among his biggest admirers. Recent reports in TalkSport suggest Real Madrid and Chelsea are also very keen but Lazio would be in no mood to move him on cheaply. Their valuation for a player seemingly happy and under contract is thought to be about £80 million.
Suitors, be prepared to get your cheque books out.
Hellas Verona will be riding high after a 9th place finish in this Serie A campaign but must be prepared for clubs with deeper pockets to run their eye over the squad. One such talent is Marash Kumbulla, who is already the subject of interest from domestic giants Inter and Juventus. Kumbulla, a 20-year-old central defender, was born in Italy but chose to represent Albania, the homeland of his parents. He is already a full international and is coming off a career-best season with his club, who value him at more than €20 million.
Kumbulla is under contract with Verona until June 2022 so there will be no rush to cash in on him for anything less than a fair offer so prospective suitors will need to meet their valuation. At 191cm, Kumbulla can also be deployed in defensive midfield and made 25 league appearances in 2019/20, scoring one goal.
Gianluca Di Marzio is reporting on Sky Sports Italia that Inter are in pole position to sign Kumbulla should he move on.
Ivorian winger Jeremie Boga is coming off a career-best campaign with Sassuolo in which he scored 11 goals in 34 appearances in the league for the Neroverdi. His form has caught the attention of teams looking to add a winger to their books and his former club Chelsea do have a buy-back clause in his contract said to be worth about €20 million.
If Chelsea pass on their first option, as many expect them to, Boga will have plenty of admirers. He’s said to be high on the list of potential additions at Napoli, who are looking to replace several key players. Boga, who was born in France, helped Sassuolo to an 8th place finish in 2019/20 and intimated to Foot Mercato back in December 2019 that he was open to a return to Chelsea at some point.
The 22-year-old arrived at Sassuolo in 2018 after previous loan stints at Granada and Birmingham City.
The Juventus winger has enjoyed a strong campaign for La Vecchia Signora, making 29 appearances in the league and contributing a goal and an assist. Bernadeschi recently changed agents by signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and has certainly fuelled rumours of a move away from Turin.
The native of Carrara is technically gifted and has a wealth of top-flight experience, including 24 senior caps for Gli Azzurri. Bernadeschi is a product of the Fiorentina youth system and in the past has found himself the subject of interest from the likes of Barcelona. At the age of 26, he may be tempted by the prospect of a greater role but expect him to demand a fee in excess of €25 million. Many in Italy were tipping the player would seek a move away after fulfilling a squad player role under Maurizio Sarri but the change of manager for the Bianconeri may alter the landscape.
Chelsea and Manchester United have both been shown interest in the player before and Chelsea may indeed hold some bargaining chips – namely reported Juve target Emerson Palmieri.
The long-serving Spaniard has confirmed he will be departing Napoli upon the expiry of his contract without a destination confirmed as yet. The former Real Madrid man has been at Napoli since 2013 and leaves as a much-admired figure at the Stadio San Paolo. The 33-year-old made a combined total of 45 appearances across all competitions, showing that he still has plenty to offer at the highest level.
Callejon has made over 300 appearances for Napoli and his next destination is a mystery although a return to Spain has been mooted as the obvious option. The veteran winger has five caps for Spain to his name and is rumoured to be high on the wishlist of Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce.