One of the hottest players early in the summer mercato has been Giannelli Imbula, the Olympique Marseille midfielder who set Ligue 1 on fire last season. His energy and quality in midfield was a big part of why Marseille finished fourth last season and hung around in the Champions League places for much of the campaign. That performance led him to get linked to both sides of the Milan divide, with Inter Milan and AC Milan both pushing hard to get him, with English club Arsenal believed to be in the picture as well.
That pursuit seems to have stalled in recent days, though, leaving an opening for another team to jump in: Napoli. Noted transfer rumor luminary Gianluca Di Marzio says that the partenopei are trying to spoil the show with a late entrance to the race, and in the wake of Inter signing Geoffrey Kondogbia for a huge fee and Milan having a laughably poor summer so far, they might just have a strong chance at sealing the deal.
Imbula, 22, is a box-to-box presence with seemingly endless reserves of energy, but also gifted with plenty of technical quality to supplement it. He's an asset in attack and defense, and with Maurizio Sarri bringing a new set of tactics that's demanding of his midfield, he'd be the perfect addition. With Napoli's pursuit of Udinese's Allan seeming to stall in the last week, Imbula would be the perfect alternate -- he's every bit as good as Allan right now and in a similar mold as a player, and at two years younger, he's got more room to grow and improve on the pitch.
He might be more expensive than Allan, though -- Imbula has three years left on his contract to Allan's one, meaning Mareseille hold more leverage in potential transfer negotiations. Fees around €20 million have been mooted as what it would take to pry Imbula from the French side, and Inter supposedly already have an agreement with the club on a deal in that range.
If Napoli want to sign Imbula, they'll need to move quickly. He's good, and well-suited to the team. The cost is high, yes, but he'd be well worth the investment. Admittedly, the deal seems like something of a longshot at the moment -- Napoli are coming in late, after all -- but they should at least try to get something done. Nothing would be lost by the effort, and the potential for reward is so, so high with a player like Imbula.