Napoli should roll out the red carpet for the January return of Edu Vargas

Harold Cunningham

Grêmio have confirmed Edu Vargas is set to return to Napoli in January. With the changes Napoli have made over the summer and the return of Vargas's form, the Chilean should be welcomed back with open arms.

Let's talk about Eduardo Vargas.

In December 2011, Napoli purchased the Chilean, for a rumored fee of around €14m. The forward seemed worth the money. 22 years old, he'd been with Universidad de Chile since January 2010. While at La U, the club won the 2011 Apertura and Clausura as well as the Copa Sudamericana. Vargas's contributions certainly didn't go unnoticed: He won Chilean Footballer of the Year in 2011 and was named the best player of that year's Copa Sudamericana after scoring 11 goals in the tournament. And so big clubs came sniffing around.

Which brings us to Napoli, where he arrived in time to get a bit of play in the second half of the 2011-2012 season. You know, that one where Napoli were still in the Champions League while progressing to the Coppa Italia final with a squad seemingly composed of just 11 players? Vargas managed to make ten appearances from the bench that season, but didn't score a single goal.

But maybe, just maybe, Vargas just needed some time to adjust in Italy. After all, this guy was meant to be the new Ezequiel Lavezzi, or possibly more appropriately, the new Alexis Sanchez. He was speedy, good with the ball at his feet and unafraid of taking a shot. That's why Napoli bought him, so they had to give him a chance to start in the new season. Right?

Nope. Not with Walter Mazzarri at the helm. Mazzarri is well-known for his dependency on certain players, and certainly for his commitment to one formation. Vargas fit into neither of those. But his rare appearances didn't help much -- the Chilean looked out of his depth, and his frustration was apparent as he picked up yellow cards rather than goals.

And so it was unsurprising when Grêmio signed Vargas on a 12 month loan. The forward left in January 2013 and almost immediately found his scoring boots again, sinking three goals in seven matches. This season, he's had three already, as well as a goal against Paraguay that helped Chile secure a 2-1 victory. Then there was Tuesday's friendly against Spain, during which Vargas scored two.

That match made seven goals in six matches with Chile. Vargas scored in six consecutive matches (Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela and Spain) making the record books and helping lift Chile to third place in CONMEBOL qualifying.

Vargas's performances in both the league and internationals have made Napoli supporters wonder what he's doing on loan in Brazil. Fortunately, it seems he's coming back to Naples in January, with Grêmio director of sport Rui Costa confirming that the club have no buyout option on their loan.

That news should be greeted with enthusiasm by Napoli supporters. Sure, Vargas didn't look great before he left on loan last season, but it's a whole new ballgame now (pardon the cliche). With Rafa Benítez in charge, Vargas could finally get some starts, even though he'll be fighting for a place with the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and the poor Dries Mertens, who probably didn't come to Naples thinking he'd sit on the bench all the time. In January, barring another "Bologna Incident", the partenopei should still be playing in Coppa Italia. With a bit of luck, they'll still be in the Champions League as well. Reinforcements will be needed, and if Vargas can manage the transition from South America to Italy this time around, he'll be more than welcomed by the San Paolo faithful.

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