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Mercato Madness: Are Napoli in the Paolo Dybala race or not?

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The race to sign Palermo star Paulo Dybala in the summer is already heating up, but no one's quite sure if Napoli are in it or not.

Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

It's been a bizarre day for Napoli on the transfer rumor front. This morning was marked with reports out of nowhere that the partenopei are front and center in the race to sign Palermo starlet Paulo Dybala now that talks on a new contract to tie him to the Rosanero long term have broken down.

The rumors sprung up from a report that Napoli sporting director Riccardo Bigon had met with Dybala's agents this weekend while in Palermo. The club were quick to quash that report, posting this statement on their official website:

"In regard to some press reports, which have claimed that there has been a meeting in Palermo in recent days between Napoli sporting director Riccardo Bigon and representatives of the player Dybala, Napoli announces that this ‘news’ is without foundation."

-Source: SSC Napoli official site

Of course, a direct denial from the club only sparked the rumors of Napoli's involvement all the higher in some circles, because conspiracy theories are fun and stuff. Or something. Who knows.

Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini didn't help quell those fires, telling press that among Serie A clubs only Juventus could hope to afford to purchase Dybala, and them only because they "could make money by selling Paul Pogba." As for Napoli, Zamparini would apparently "be happy to sell [Dybala] to De Laurentiis, but Napoli no longer have a [Edinson] Cavani or [Ezequiel] Lavezzi to sell." Of course, there's the seemingly-ceaseless rumors that Gonzalo Higuain will be sold in the summer, with Jose Callejon joining him on that exit rumor train of late. So. Yeah. Good times.

Getting Paulo Dybala would be fantastic for Napoli, make no mistake. Partenopei fans have found out the hard way this season that the 20 year old Argentine is very, very good, and he would likely fit in very well with Napoli's attack. He would be hellishly expensive, though, with Zamparini believed to be demanding at least €40 million to give him up. Napoli almost certainly wouldn't be able to pay that without selling Higuain, though if they did sell their star striker they could do a whole lot worse to replace him than Dybala.