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Mercato Madness: No, Higuain and Hamsik are not leaving for Liverpool

Rumors have been rampant in the last few days that Napoli's two best players are leaving for Anfield Road this January. That's not happening.

Dino Panato

The rumor du jour in Italy of late is that Liverpool is going to come swinging through Naples in January and take Gonzalo Higuain and/or Marek Hamsik with them on their way out. Because apparently English Premier League teams can just boss around Serie A clubs or something. I dunno.

In any event, it's a rather ridiculous rumor. It certainly grabs attention and makes people wander over to read the story, which is exactly what it's designed to do, and from a "well, why not?" stance, it sounds great for Liverpool fans. The Anfield club has struggled with a heavily retooled side, especially without the creative dynamism of Luis Suarez up top. Adding a top-notch playmaker like Hamsik and a creative striker with a poacher's instinct like Higuain makes a lot of sense on the surface.

Once you look at the nitty-gritty details under the surface, though, the whole thing falls apart in a hurry.

First and foremost, Liverpool simply can't afford to bring in either player, much less both. They spent a whopping €150 million last summer, and even with the massive sale of Luis Suarez, they brought in a "mere" €92 million from player sales. That puts their transfer activity almost €60 million in the hole, which has brought the watchful eye of UEFA their way as they get investigated for possible violations of Financial Fair Play (an investigation that is also looking at Roma and Inter Milan, for what it's worth). Adding two more big-money signings to the list won't make their books look any better without selling some major assets, and they don't have "spare" players worth enough to improve the equation.

Besides, with the squad already struggling to properly integrate eight new first-team regulars, how is bringing in two more going to help? Further spreading out minutes isn't going to help matters any. Higuain and Hamsik fit Brendan Rodgers' system well in theory, but with Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli at striker, plus a deep midfield group featuring Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, and Adam Lallana among others, both Napoli players would struggle to find regular minutes.

Plus, it makes no sense from a Napoli perspective either. While Napoli supposedly would replace Higuain with Jackson Martinez (more on that in a minute), who replaces Marekiaro? Michu? Jonathan De Guzman? Both are decent short-term options for the #10 role, but neither has shown enough this season to want to trust them for more than a couple of matches at a time. And with no playmakers of sufficient quality appearing to be available this winter, that would leave Napoli in a real lurch at a bad time.

As for what happens at striker, Napoli could stay in-house and replace Higuain with Duvan Zapata and Michu, but that's risky if Napoli have put themselves back in the Champions League (and hopefully scudetto) race. Then there's the rumor about Jackson Martinez, but that doesn't make sense for a few reasons. First, it'd be hideously expensive; even the "reduced" buyout clause in the new contract Martinez signed this summer is for €35 million, which is a lot of money for Napoli to spend.

Making the move even more questionable is that the Colombian just turned 28, which is generally the end of the peak years for a striker. That means Napoli would be guaranteed to take a massive loss on Martinez down the line, as there's realistically no way they'd be able to sell him for anywhere near his current value in two or three years. Also, as a more-or-less straight-up goalscoring striker with very little in the way of creative nous, he's a poor fit for the system Rafa Benitez employs, which asks for at least a degree of creativity and passing quality up top, a quality that has allowed Pipita to flourish at Napoli. If Rafa is still the manager in January, replacing Higuain with Martinez makes no sense from either a financial or tactical perspective.

Long story short, this rumor is short-sighted trash, designed to grab attention and pageviews. There's no logic to it for either club involved, but that doesn't keep the papers from screaming about it as though it's a locked-on certainty to happen. Feel free to ignore it from now on.