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Mercato Madness: Napoli looking at Riccardo Saponara

The day after the 23 year old attacking midfielder gutted Napoli's defense, rumors emerge that Napoli have an interest in bringing him in.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

It was probably inevitable, but only a day after gutting Napoli's defense as the tip of Empoli's midfield, 23 year old attacking midfielder Riccardo Samponara is being linked to a possible summer move to Naples.

The rumor comes straight from Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi, who spoke about the aftermath of the match on Friday and included this little nugget of information:

I spoke to De Laurentiis about Saponara. I said he’s like [Napoli’s Marek] Hamsik, except he’s five years younger. Aurelio seemed interested.

-Source: Radio Crc via Football Italia

That's actually not as insane a comparison as it might seem on the surface. While Saponara doesn't yet perform at as consistently high a level as Hamsik can, his skillset is very similar and he seems to have a pretty fair ceiling to his talent. Considering how much Napoli's attack has tended to struggle when Hamsik doesn't start over the last few years, getting a capable backup should be one of their priorities this summer, and Saponara would seem to fit the bill.

The deal would have some potential complications. Saponara is owned by AC Milan, who loaned him to Empoli in January. Apparently that loan came with a purchase clause, however, and unless the financial terms of said clause are overly steep, it seems fairly obvious at this point, after five goals in twelve matches, that Empoli will trigger the clause.

What happens from there is a bit of a mystery, though. It's far from unusual for players in Italy to get bought out of a loan like that and then flipped to a new team for a profit, and it looks like Empoli could do just that with Saponara. If Napoli are interested as Corsi is implying, they could be the happy new employers of a talented Italian midfielder. They'd be much more likely to be able to get him for a reasonable fee from Empoli than from Milan, who see Napoli as a rival for their goals, where Empoli just want to fund further purchases to improve their squad and more fully establish themselves as a long-term Serie A side.

The whole thing seems like a stretch and something that's not likely to happen, but it is plausible. It even makes sense from a squad construction angle. You shouldn't expect to see Saponara in a Napoli shirt next season, but you also shouldn't be completely shocked if he does put on the right shade of blue.