This may come as a shock to our regular readers, but Paulo Sousa isn’t very popular right now. While Pantaleo Corvino insists that he and the Portuguese mister still plan to meet in April to discuss the option for another year, that’s sounding less and less likely. Indeed, the Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the club and the manager will part ways in June.
The rumor mill has wasted no time in churning out potential replacements, though. Gazzetta dello Sport believes that the top four candidates as of now are Eusebio di Francesco of Sassuolo, Marco Giampaolo of Sampdoria, Walter Mazzarri of Watford, and Leonardo Semplici of SPAL.
Notably absent from that list is Maurizio Sarri. Ciro Venerato, the longtime analyst at RAI who’s generally pretty knowledgeable on this sort of thing, believes that the relationship between manager and club is too strong, and that he’ll likely stay at Napoli despite the recently cool relations with Aurelio de Laurentiis.
Young Bartlomiej Dragowski may finally get some playing time, as la Nazione believes that he’ll leave on loan in January. He’s probably not ready to unseat Ciprian Tatarusanu quite yet, but half a year in the lower reaches of Serie A (Cagliari, anyone?) or in Serie B may speed his development enough to challenge the incumbent in Moena next summer.
However, if the young Pole doesn’t develop as planned, Corvino has backup plans in the form of Gaston Guruceaga. The 21-year-old Uruguayan U21 and Peñarol star is a hulking specimen who’s recently gotten a couple of calls to the senior side, although he’s not unseating Fernando Muslera any time soon. With a contract up in 2018, he could be a cheap buy over the summer, although Lazio are also considering a move. With lightning reflexes, an imposing frame, and startling acceleration off his line, he could be a good one.
Kevin Diks is also has the look of someone who’ll leave on loan in January. He’s obviously too good for the Primavera, but the club doesn’t think he’s quite ready for the big time yet; a temporary spell elsewhere—and some regular playing time—might change that. Pescara still sounds the likeliest destination, as he may serve as a makeweight in a deal for Francesco Zampano. La Nazione believes that the Viola will make a move for him this January, and the temporary services of Diks could soften the blow of his loss for the Delfini.
The cloud around Milan Badelj continues to obscure everything about his January status. While Chelsea have voiced their interest, it seems that AC Milan and Inter Milan are set to duke it out for his services. The former is planning a January move already, although the latter have come on strong in recent days as well. Corvino is expected to ask for anywhere from €10 million to €15 million for the Croatian international; with the possibility of a bidding war, it could reach the higher end of that figure. We’ve also just heard, though, that Corvino wants to keep him until June, although that sure seems like an effort to drive the price up.
After Matias Vecino discussed his desire to someday play in the Premier League, Corvino is looking to make sure that anyone moving for the Uruguayan star will pay dearly; the Corvine One is planning to insert a hefty buyout clause in the midfielder’s contract some time before the end of the year.
Last we saw Genoa star Diego Laxalt, well, let’s just forget about that unpleasantness. Fiorentina, though, are thought to be reopening their interest from last summer in the versatile Uruguayan, although Chelsea and Arsenal are also thought to be admirers.
Inter are also thought to be lining up a bid for Federico Bernardeschi. The Nerazzuri supposedly have a war chest of €100 million for January and are looking to make Berna one of their big signings as they push for Champions League qualification. In a rather surprising twist, though, PSG scouts were spotted watching him at the Lazio match, as well. While it’s unlikely the club would sell their young talisman, he may be next in line for a buyout clause, and you’d have to think it’d be somewhere north of €50 million.
€15 million is what Marseille are offering Barcelona for Cristian Tello, though. L’OM are in dire straits, and new DG Andoni Zubizarreta is hoping to call in some favors from his old club and get the Catalans to terminate the flyer’s time in Florence early. While €15 mil may seem, er, rather steep for a player who’s been disastrous this season, the Viola would probably profit handsomely off of a January recall, which would go against the terms previously negotiated for his services.
Well, that didn’t take long. Napoli are after Nikola Kalinic again, despite the recent reveal of the Croatian hitman’s shocking €50 million buyout clause. The belief is that if the Partenopei sell star defender Kalidou Koulibaly for stupid money—a very credible outcome, given the vociferous interest in the Senegalese destroyer from England—that they’ll immediately put the proceeds from that sale towards buying Kalinic quam primum. Frankly, that seems like a long shot.
The murmurs about an impending Khouma Babacar exit are starting to intensify, as the Senegalese striker sure seems to be at loggerheads with Sousa. Genoa are thought to be nosing in on a low-ball bid, but Crystal Palace and West Ham will probably be able to outspend the Grifoni for a player they’ve both been linked to before. Hopefully, though, B2 will stay in Florence forever.
Mauro Zarate, though, is almost certain to leave over the winter. Bologna and Empoli have been the most commonly-mentioned destinations, although Maurizio Corsi, president of the Tuscan outfit, insists that he has no interest in acquiring the Argentine. Wherever he ends up, it won’t be Florence, as he’s clearly surplus to the Viola’s needs.
The reason Maurito seems so superfluous is that favorite son Stevan Jovetic sure looks like he’s inching towards a return to the Franchi. Following a very public bust-up via agent Fali Ramadani with manager Stefano Pioli, the Inter boss admits that the Montenegrin is probably going to leave. The generally reliable Gianluca di Marzio believes that Florence is far and away the most likely landing pad, and various outlets report that a swap deal for Badelj is in the works. Hardly seems possible he’s only been gone for 3 years.
That’s not all, though. Meet 20-year-old Frenchman M’Bala Nzola. Currently playing with Virtus Francavilla in the Lega Pro after not making the cut at Academica in Portugal, he’s been a revelation in his first season in Italy, scoring 7 goals and laying on 2 assists in 20 appearances. Fiorentina, Napoli, Carpi, Bari, Hellas Verona, and Cittadella are all following him closely. A powerful but pacy frontman who knows how to finish in the area, he can also cut in from the left and blast home with his powerful right foot.
17-year-old Uruguayan Joaquin Ardaiz is also in Fiorentina’s sights. Having risen through the ranks at Danubio, he’s now in the first team and has 3 goals and 2 assists in 10 appearances, although just 2 of those have been starts. He’s a big, powerful player with deceptive pace, decent in the air and with the skill and audacity to pull off the spectacular. Bologna and Inter are also both interested in U20 international, who’d probably cost around €2.5 million. If he continues to develop, he could be an absolute steal.