This midfield was a roller coaster ride for Napoli last season, with form spiking and plummeting all season long among the various pairings that patrolled the heart of the pitch for the partenopei. Now, though, with a new manager and a new set of tactics with a new formation, we could see a complete change in personnel in the middle of the field as well.
The rumor mill is churning full force in recent days, and now it's got all three of Napoli's most-started central midfielder headed for the exit door. Each of Gokhan Inler, Walter Gargano, and David López are being linked with moves away from the club, possibly heralding a massive turnover for Napoli in the coming weeks.
Inler has been occasionally linked to a move to Germany over the past two weeks, but more recently it's starting to seem as though he's bound for Turkey. Though born in Switzerland, Inler's parents are Turkish nationals -- which is not an uncommon occurrence, as much of the Swiss national team that Inler captains is of Turkish descent. Inler actually played for Turkey as a youth international before deciding to represent his home country, and Turkish fans have a long-running fondness for him despite his decision to play elsewhere.
That fondness might get some up-close attention soon, as Inler is being strongly linked to a move to either Trabzonspor or Fenerbahce, two of the larger teams in Turkey, though firmly behind Galatassaray and Besiktas in country's pecking order. Inler played well against Trabzonspor when Napoli wiped the floor with the Turkish team in the Europa League this season, and Fenerbahce are always eager to add veterans with name value to their squad.
Playing in Turkey would probably suit Inler at this point in his career. He's 31 now and has lost a step, but the slower pace and more open tactics played in the Super Lig -- Turkey's top division -- would let him get another year or two of quality performance in before finally having to accept the fate of age.
Gargano has been linked with a move to Monterrey in Mexico's top division for several weeks now, and it's starting to look as though that move might be close to coming to fruition. To be honest, it's hard to say much about this. The move makes sense for him, as he doesn't seem to be in Napoli's plans, and Mexico would be a place he could do quite well in between pace and style of play of Liga MX. Hopefully it works out for him!
Lopez, though, is a tougher pill to swallow. He was Napoli's best central midfielder by a wide margin last season, and seemed to be a solid fit for Maurizio Sarri. But now West Bromwich Albion are sniffing around, and other English teams might be as well, so Lopez might not be long for Naples. It'd be hard to resist the chance at making the big money that English teams can offer, and even harder to turn down playing as a starter in the most-watched league in the world. West Brom have had to deal with their own midfield exodus this summer, and if they do buy Lopez he could easily be an every-match starter in Tony Pulis' side.
Losing Gargano was expected and, to be honest, he wouldn't be too difficult to replace, especially since he was never really a fit for Sarri's tactics anyways. Inler could have had a big role, but after last season it wouldn't be shocking if he wants out, and if Napoli can get someone like Allan or Giannelli Imbula as rumored, well, there's your replacement. Losing Lopez, though, would hurt more. He's not irreplaceable by any means, but he's good, and taking players off the top of an already-thinning midfield depth chart is tough, especially with so many other departures looming in the group.
It wouldn't be dooming for Napoli to lose all three players, but it would be a big blow, if only because the club already needed midfield reinforcements with all three in the fold. If all three do go, further midfield purchases would instantly shoot up in priority for the partenopei.