Sadly, shockingly, and frustratingly, it seems that Napoli are on the verge of selling Federico Fernandez to Swansea City. Foolish as that may seem, apparently Napoli feel that €10 million and a different center back is more valuable to them right now.
Understandably, that's shifted the focus of transfer rumors around the club away from their search for a midfielder and moved it squarely in to the heart of defense. Various sites and sources have opined on various options, but two names have quickly found themselves at the top of the pile, and both are experienced internationals.
The first isn't a surprise, and is a name we've heard several times this summer: Daniel Agger of Liverpool. The English club's vice-captain isn't thrilled with where he stands in Liverpool's depth chart, and might be willing to finally leave a city he's head over heels in love with. He left Liverpool's USA tour early with a "slight injury" that the club has given no news or updates on since, despite several updates on other injured players since then, leading to rampant speculation of an imminent departure.
Agger, also the captain of the Denmark international side, makes a lot of sense for Napoli for a couple of reasons. Beyond simply known Rafa Benitez and his systems well, the left-footed defender would allow Raul Albiol to shift to his more natural right side in the central pairing, hopefully lessening some of the positioning issues that cropped up in the Spaniard's game from time to time. He'd also bring a veteran presence and leadership ability that the back line lacked at times last season, especially useful with a younger goalkeeper around in Rafael Cabral.
Of course, there's always the issue of wages; Agger is believed to make somewhere around €5 million per season (or a little less than €100,000 per week), a figure that it's believed Aurelio De Laurentiis believes is too high. It certainly does seem a bit much for a soon-to-be 30 year old defender coming off a down year, and Napoli and Liverpool would have to agree to some kind of wage sharing arrangement if Agger is loaned, or Agger would have to relent to a wage cut if he signs on a permanent deal.
The other name, and someone who shouldn't come with ever-annoying wage problems, is Greek international Kostas Manolas, currently plying his trade with Olympiakos. The Greek side is willing to part with their star defender as they need to raise the cash, and Napoli aren't the only side in Italy who are interested. Juventus are reportedly already deep in negotiations with player and club, so if Napoli really want to get Manolas, they'll need to work quickly. Olympiakos want some €15 million for Manolas, while Juve would rather pay a lower fee and send a player or two to Greece to make up the difference. If Napoli can find a number Olympiakos like better and fast, they could swipe Juve's current top target out from under them.
The fit for Manolas is a little more awkward, of course; no one in Napoli's squad speaks Greek, and that can always cause problems early on for a player. That said, he's young, he's fairly talented, and he seems driven to do bigger and better things, so if Napoli want to take a flyer on him, it'd be hard to hate the deal.
While losing Fernandez is annoying at best, if Napoli can come out of it with a better defense in the end, it'd be much easier to accept the process. That said, they need to get whatever deal they make done fast, preferably before the registration deadline for the Champions League playoff round. Going in to that shorthanded in defense would be brutal, especially with as tough a matchup as Napoli have been handed.