There's been a lot of flirtation with other midfielders in the past couple of weeks, but it sounds as though Napoli's interest in Lucas Leiva continues unabated. The Liverpool midfielder is in Boston with the squad on an American tour (and getting ready to face Roma tonight, as it happens), but the two clubs continue to negotiate on the potential for the Brazilian to move to Italy on a loan.
As we've discussed previously, Lucas would be a wonderful fit as the holding midfielder that Napoli have been scouring Europe to get for over a year now. When fit and in form, Lucas is arguably one of the best DM's around, floating around in front of the defense breaking up play left, right, and center. He's not the physical brawler some might typically expect in the role, but he uses his technique and ability to read the game to his full advantage.
Trouble is, Lucas hasn't been fit and in form for two years now. A serious knee injury two and a half years ago put his development on hold, and several setbacks of varying degrees have further hampered him. Regular playing time has been hard to come by as a result, and when he has played he hasn't been the same dominating force he was when he got hurt.
That's why he's available, and why a loan deal is being preferred to a straight sale. According to Il Mattino, Liverpool want more than €2 million up front in the form of a loan fee, with another €15 million next summer in the form of a compulsory purchase clause. That clause would get triggered after a certain amount of appearances made by Lucas, the exact number of which is currently unknown (and likely still under negotiation).
Napoli, understandably, want a lower fee up front and would prefer the purchase clause be optional, much like the deal they struck for Michu. The €15 million purchase fee seems high at first glace, especially for a player who hasn't played much (or well) in over two years. When you consider just how good Lucas can be, though, that number seems very fair indeed if he's playing well enough to see the starts needed to trigger the purchase clause, or simply to make Napoli want to buy him outright.
There's also a small hiccup as of now in that Napoli don't want to pay Lucas' full wages (reported to be around €4 million a year, or a little under €77,000 per week), where Liverpool wants his wages off their books. After the two sides managed to split Pepe Reina's (much higher) wages last season, some agreement should be relatively easy to come to.
This is still a move that makes a lot of sense if the two sides can come to terms, and get Lucas to agree to it as well. If Rafa Benitez can get one of his old favorites fit and playing well again, this would be a great move for both Napoli and Lucas. He'd fill a definite hole, and the fact that he's a pretty adorable person with an even more adorable family (seriously, his little son Pedro is CUTE) makes the fit all the better. Make this happen, Bigon.