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Napoli Transfer Window 2016: Recapping the summer mercato

It was a busy, busy summer for Napoli.

Pescara Calcio v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

The transfer window is closed, the money is dried up, and the fat lady has sung. With players jetting off around the world for international friendlies, that gives us a chance to breathe and take stock of what’s happened, because wow does Napoli look different now compared to a few months ago. We’ll have more in-depth looks at how the summer’s transfers impacted each position group later, but for now here’s a broad-strokes look at Napoli’s mercato.

The Transfers

In: Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax, €32 million), Amadou Diawara (Bologna, €15 million), Piotr Zielinski (Udinese, €14 million), Lorenzo Tonelli (Empoli, €10 million), Nikola Maksimovic (€5 million loan w/ €20 million purchase option), Marko Rog (Dinamo Zagreb, €2 million loan w/ €14 million purchase option), Emanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland, €1.5 million), Luigi Sepe (return from loan), Roberto Insigne (return from loan), Igor Lasicki (return from loan)

Total Fees Spent: €79.5 million

Napoli signed seven new players this summer, two of whom are likely to feature heavily in the starting lineup this season, with the other five looking like key members of Napoli’s rotation. That’s a major haul, especially when you consider that, outside of Giaccherini and Tonelli, who are both clearly meant more for quality depth, all of their signings are 24 or under and can be a major part of Napoli’s future.

Out: Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus, €94 million), David Lopez (Espanyol, €4 million), Mirko Valdifiori (Torino, €3.5 million), Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes, €500,000), Jonathan De Guzman (Chievo Verona, loan), Camilo Zuniga (Watford, loan), Alberto Grassi (Atalanta, loan), Josip Radosevic (Red Bull Salzburg, free), Sebastiano Luperto (Pro Vervelli, loan), Vasco Regini (end of loan), Nathaniel Chalobah (end of loan), Gabriel (end of loan)

Total Fees Received: €102 million

The headliner here, both in quality and in the fee received, is Higuain, whose stunning betrayal of forcing a move to Juventus still stings. Otherwise, though, Napoli lost two reserves who they improved on in the summer market in Lopez and Valdifiori, sent out two players with first-team experience on developmental loans in Grassi and Luperto, and otherwise lost a few players who the team clearly didn’t want any more, or had loans expire. Even among that ex-loanee trio, only one, Chalobah, was worth keeping — but Chelsea weren’t interested in selling.

Net Spend: -€22.5 million

Overall Thoughts

Napoli got younger, hungrier, and meaner this summer, and that can only be a good thing. They added youth, talent, and upside to every area of the pitch but in goal, and while the starting lineup may not see major changes this season, this summer’s purchases were more about long-term vision than immediate impact.

Even in the short-term, though, this was an excellent summer — Higuain was the only major loss, and in Milik they replaced him with a striker who may fit the rest of the squad better with how he plays. The rest of the squad now has much better quality of depth than we’ve seen Napoli have in years, too, giving them a stronger rotation and, maybe more importantly, a greater ability to impact the game with substitutes, especially in midfield.

While some fans are disappointed that more money wasn’t spent, it wasn’t for lack of trying — Napoli had a couple of major deals fall apart because the other club pulled the plug, and they actually would have spent another €20 million on deadline day if not for having to restructure Maksimovic’s deal as an initial loan because of travel delays preventing a medical.

It was a strong window no matter how you slice it. I wouldn’t quite say that Napoli knocked it out of the park — they’re probably one immediate-impact signing shy of that — but if Napoli are soaring at levels higher than ever in three or four years, we’ll probably be looking back and pointing at this transfer window as the reason why, and that is a wonderful thing to be able to say.

Also of note: that money left over from Napoli’s sales means that they’ll have a little bit more to play with in January, especially if they advance from their Champions League group. Napoli have a solid recent track record with January purchases, though last year’s aggressive efforts at making impact signings were hampered by a small budget, leading to a lackluster mercato. This time, though, there will be money to use, and seeing what Napoli do with it will bear close monitoring.

Notable Missed Deals

Because sometimes people like to see what’s happened and say “what if...”

Axel Witsel

Napoli aren’t the only ones feeling the pain on Witsel, after Juventus had a deadline day deal scuppered by Zenit in the last half hour of the mercato despite Witsel having spent all day in Turin. Napoli had a deal of their own tossed away by Zenit despite having gotten through weeks of moving goalposts for fees and a fairly contentious contract agreement process with the player himself. Just when it looked like everything was set, poof, Zenit pulled the plug.

Hector Herrera

Like with Zenit and Witsel, Napoli kept meeting Porto’s asking prices for the Mexico international, but kept having the asking price raised every time. Not a great way to do business.

Marco Sportiello

Napoli made two passes at the talented young Atalanta goalkeeper this summer, but didn’t land him just yet. An earlier try at him was rebuffed when Atalanta decided to wait one more year before selling him, but that almost changed in the last day of the window after an apparent disagreement over Sportiello’s future between player and club seemed to put him back on the market. Napoli tried to get a deal done that would have seen them buy Sportiello and loan him back for the season, but there wasn’t time to get it done. This seems like something we’ll see progress in January.

Rodrigo Caio

There were significant reports of Napoli being interested in signing the young Brazilian defender in the final two days of the window, but between a lack of time and a growing logjam of central defenders, they declined to make a move on this front. Like with Sportiello, this is a move we could definitely see revisited in January.

Mauro Icardi

I’m not sure this should really be called a “missed” deal, but given how it dominated headlines for a couple of weeks it’s worth mentioning. During and after the Higuain sale drama, there were a number of reports that Icardi was the man that Napoli wanted to replace him. But with Inter Milan rejecting ever more ludicrous offers, it quickly became apparent that no such deal would happen — which is a good thing, because Icardi and Napoli are a poor fit for each other.

Davide Santon

The Inter right back was actually signed, sealed, and delivered for a reasonable-looking €5 million transfer to become a decent depth option for Napoli — until he failed his medical because of a long-troublesome knee problem. Santon would fail two more medicals later in the summer and was woeful in his one Inter appearance so far this season, so bullet dodged.