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Mercato Madness: Napoli courting Simone Zaza?

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Reports indicate that Napoli are after Sassuolo striker Simone Zaza to strengthen their strike corps for next season.

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With a big shakeup looking probable for this summer, it's not surprising that Napoli would look to try to get some transfer business done ahead of time to try to make it as smooth a ride as possible.

As it seems reasonably likely that Gonzalo Higuain will want out if Rafa Benitez leaves the club -- especially if Napoli miss out on the Champions League -- finding a new center forward will be a priority as no one in the club seems to be quite sure what Duvan Zapata's future with the club will be, despite his obvious promise. Without a guarantee of a significant transfer budget unless Napoli finish second, the club would have to spread Higuain's transfer fee around smartly rather than use the whole thing on his replacement. That means finding a striker who's good, but doesn't break the bank.

Enter Simone Zaza.

The 23 year old Italian striker has been a revelation since joining Sassuolo, scoring 17 league goals in just over a season and a half, including eight so far this season. Tall, strong, and a confident finisher, he's an ideal center forward in a lot of ways, and it'd be easy to see how Zaza could fit in to Napoli's side in a post-Higuain world. That beard alone would be worth the price of admission, after all.

And hey, guess what? Napoli want him! In fact, according to the morning paper edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport, they've even put together a four year contract together for Zaza worth €1.7 million per season. Zaza's agent denies that the contract has been offered to the player, but did acknowledge that rumors could have come from either club to that effect.

There would be a hitch, though, because there's always a hitch. Juventus hold a €15 million buy-back clause on Zaza after selling their half of his co-ownership rights to Sassuolo last summer, and it's believed that they intend to exercise it this summer and may indeed have done so already. That would mean Napoli would have to deal with Juve again on a potential deal, something that's rarely pleasant. Especially after how much blowback they took from fans and media over their part in the Manolo Gabbiadini deal, there's no reason to think they'll make it easy on Napoli this time around.

If Napoli can make a deal work financially and feel as though they're certain to lose Higuain, it would make a lot of sense to get their hands on Zaza. He's good, he's Italian -- don't forget the home grown player rules coming to Italy! -- and his fee and wages won't break the bank. Napoli could do a whole lot worse than going to Zaza should things get bad this summer.