To secure a scudetto, Napoli need...well, a defender

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Yes, yes, it's not even March. But is it ever too early to start thinking about how to improve the Napoli squad?

Aurelio De Laurentiis has dreams of a scudetto next season, and the Napoli owner has promised this summer will be about bringing in players to help build a team that can both chase the title and compete in the Champions League.* So what sort of players might be brought in?

First on the list appears to be Javier Mascherano, the 29-year-old centerback currently at Barcelona. There's a bit of conflict about that, however, with one article saying he's top of the list, but in another interview, ADL saying sure, ok, if Rafa Benítez likes him and he fits within Financial Fair Play.

Mascherano...well, he's a toss up. He'd be a big investment: €15m for three seasons, plus €4m per season? That seems like a lot for a guy that'll be 30 by the time Napoli pick him up. Yes, defenders are often the oldest members of a side and yes, the partenopei can certainly use a quality central defender. But after seeing just how much Paolo Cannavaro declined after reaching age 30, it's hard not to be skeptical.

But Mascherano fits the Rafa profile. He loves to pick up players he's worked with before, and he worked with the Argentine back at Liverpool (in case you forgot Mascherano was a Red, you were most likely reminded last night, when English announcers were certain to have used "former Liverpool man..." when identifying Mascherano during Barcelona's win over Manchester City). Benítez also loves Spanish speakers and poaching from La Liga, although this one plays more than others Rafa has woo'd away.

Of course, there's also still talk of bringing in Daniel Agger - another player Rafa knows from the good old Liverpool days - or Thomas Vermaelen, who, surprisingly, appears to have no connection to the Napoli manager whatsoever, and most likely doesn't speak Spanish. That last name is perhaps the most worrisome, as the Belgian has barely been seen for Arsenal this season, and picking up an injury-laden player is hardly going to help the accursed defense.

At least it's clear that Rafa and ADL both know what's most important for this side: strengthening the central defense. If it were up to you, who would you most like to see in that role, come August?

*This seems contingent on actually holding on to third place, so Napoli can't afford any more slip ups.

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