Napoli came into this summer with a long list of needs, one that’s only grown longer thanks to various transfer dramas. One position that many assumed was secure was in goal, though an unfortunate dose of reality has Napoli taking a long look at one of the young Italian goalkeepers many hope will be the heir to Gianluigi Buffon in the national team.
That young keeper is Marco Sportiello of Atalanta, whom Alfredo Pedulla is reporting that Napoli are working on a deal to land, aiming to have it done within the next two weeks. Pedulla doesn’t have financial terms that Napoli are looking at yet, but they are apparently willing to send Luigi Sepe the other way in order to make the deal easier to stomach for Atalanta.
Sportiello is perhaps the top-rated young Italian keeper that we’ve seen in a very, very long time. Just 24 years old — still a baby in terms of goalkeeping development — Sportiello already has two full seasons of starting experience under his belt for Atalanta and has been wildly impressive despite being on a team that’s anything but. He’s been much sought-after by many high-end teams over the last year, but either he or Atalanta have rejected moves every time for varying reasons. Now, though, Sportiello is believed to be interested in a move to a bigger club like Napoli where he can learn under a veteran before taking over in goal, and with Pepe Reina in the squad, that’s the perfect fit for him.
Now, Pedulla has a spotty record when it comes to Napoli, tending to be better on news regarding Juventus and Roma, but he’s also very good with rumors regarding Atalanta, and he was one of the first on the scene with the Alberto Grassi rumors that ended in Napoli buying the young midfielder. This would be a move in a very similar vein for Napoli, and it’s one fans would absolutely love.
Napoli’s need for a young, talented goalkeeper has been made all the more apparent thanks to Pepe Reina suffering two separate muscular injuries in his legs already during pre-season. That’s making fans remember that he’s getting on in years — and remember how far Reina’s form plummeted when he started suffering leg injuries when he first arrived on loan three years ago.
Napoli had been hoping that either Luigi Sepe or Rafael Cabral would be ready to challenge Reina for the job by now, but that seems to be anything but the case. Rafael was mostly solid during his stint as Napoli’s starter two years ago, but gave up a few soft goals and was exiled by Rafa Benitez, then couldn’t convince Maurizio Sarri to utilize him even once last season, with teenage loanee Gabriel preferred is his place.
Sepe impressed playing for Sarri at Empoli two years ago, but his loan spell at Fiorentina last season was a disaster. He hardly played, played poorly when he did, and then publicly clashed with management, leading to him being dropped from the squad entirely. That’s apparently seen his star drop significantly with Napoli management, as he doesn’t seem to be considered a potential heir for Reina any longer.
If Sportiello becomes that heir, Napoli fans would be hard-pressed to complain about it. He’s wonderfully talented now, has the ceiling to get significantly better, and he has the potential to become a star goalkeeper over the next decade or longer. It would be fantastic to see Napoli land him, so this news is most welcome and very, very exciting. Fingers crossed that everything can be resolved smoothly.