Napoli have been active in the transfer market trying to bring in a central defender this month, with their pursuit of Nikola Maksimovic famously falling prey to moving fee goalposts once again. Napoli have apparently moved on to new targets, focusing in on another former Maurizio Sarri disciple at Empoli: Federico Barba.
Their pursuit of Barba apparently comes after another failed bid for Lorenzo Tonelli, who Napoli also tried for last summer but has since become Empoli's standout best defender. So they shifted to another, younger target, and one that perhaps fits their needs better in Barba. The 22 year old Italian is relatively inexperienced, with just 10 starts this season and only 28 Serie A appearances in his career totaling a hair over 2,100 minutes, but he's athletic, well-built, and has a very high ceiling of potential to work with.
That makes him an attractive prospect for a team like Napoli to pursue, especially since Barba is also left-footed, something they lack among their main rotation of central defenders currently. Teenager Sebastiano Luperto is also left-footed, but he has all of 10 minutes of senior squad action under his belt and is far more raw than Barba at the moment. With Vlad Chiriches serving as the only reserve at both sides of central defense -- and being far more comfortable on the right side -- Napoli have struggled at the back at times this season when they've tried to rotate, so bringing in a natural left-footer should help reduce those woes. Doing so with a talented defender that Napoli can slowly turn into a much bigger piece of their side is a pretty damn fine fringe benefit, too.
By the sound of reports, a deal could be done very quickly -- indications are that Barba has been tentatively scheduled to come to Napoli's Castel Volturno training grounds for a medical later this week, as negotiations are "very advanced" and rapidly closing on completion. Empoli reportedly want close to €5 million for Barba, while Napoli are reportedly offering €3.5 million. That's a very small gap to overcome, and it can probably be closed in a snap with performance bonuses -- something Napoli have leaned on heavily in their recent transfer negotiations.
In the end, this seems like it would be a solid acquisition for Napoli. Is Federico Barba as exciting a name as Nikola Maksimovic? No. Does that mean it's a bad deal? Heck no. He's inexpensive, he's a solid enough player now with a lot of upside, and he helps Napoli in ways that they need. That's just good business.