While much of Napoli’s transfer focus so far this summer has been in central midfield and defense, an interesting new angle has cropped up over the last few days, and from a largely unanticipated direction as well: the president of Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb confirmed in a recent interview that Napoli have made an offer totaling €35 million for two of his young attacking players, Marko Pjaca and Marko Rog.
It doesn’t sound as though a deal is quite imminent, though — while Mirko Barisic did specifically confirm the offer, he also noted that there is no agreement in place as there are “obstacles” to the deal currently. He declined to specify what the obstacles were, though the structure of Napoli’s offer would be the most likely culprit, probably in the form of how much money is up front and how much is tied up in long-term payments or bonus clauses. Liverpool’s continuing interest in Pjaca would be a stumbling block as well — though their interest seems to have cooled over the last week — and both Juventus and AC Milan have stepped up as potential destinations for the attacker as well.
Pjaca, who recently turned 21, can play on either wing, and very much resembles a younger version of Jose Callejon in how he plays. He’s fast, good on the ball, and will run himself into the ground before giving up on a game. Pjaca is still a bit raw in terms of how he approaches the game and his technical skillset, but compared to most other wing prospects his age, he’s much further along in terms of development and refinement.
Rog turns 21 later in July, is a creative midfielder in a similar mould to Marek Hamsik — athletic and audaciously creative, though still screamingly raw at this point in his career. Rog represents something of a lottery ticket in this potential deal, a boom-or-bust prospect who could become a huge star or just kind of plod along doing fine but nothing special. Despite the risk that represents, it would actually be a good risk for Napoli to take right now, especially at that position.
Pjaca and Rog both recently featured for Croatia at Euro 2016. Pjaca started one match — Croatia’s dramatic late win over Spain — and came off the bench twice more for his country, widely impressing those who watched him play. He played a key role in that Spain win, a match that also featured a surprising start from Rog, who was tidy in Croatia’s midfield possession game and showed a surprising willingness and effectiveness in their high press.
€35 million would be a lot of money for the pair, a deal that would likely be broken down to roughly €25 million for Pjaca and €10 million for Rog. Such an audacious move would be a massive financial gamble for Napoli, but one that could serve them well — they need players at both positions, and both are young and offer the exact sorts of skillsets the partenopei are looking for.
There’s no guarantee this move would go right, but you don’t get a lot of chances to bring in two talents of their caliber at the same time in this market, two players who would help each other settle and grow in the team. If it works, it would be fantastic for Napoli, and if it doesn’t it would hurt the team financially — but either way, it shows a degree of daring and forward-thinking that we’re not used to seeing from Napoli, and that represents a big step in the right direction.