The mood at the Castel Volturno training grounds was celebratory on Wednesday morning. Alberto Grassi had signed his contract, his €10 million transfer had been finalized, and all was right with the world. Napoli had a new midfielder, one with good current skill and excellent projection, and things were looking up.
Then they had an afternoon training session, and everything went horribly wrong.
Details of what happened are scarce, but it has been confirmed that Grassi suffered a knee injury in his very first training session, and apparently the initial diagnosis is cause for concern. Grassi is set to undergo further evaluation on Thursday, including going in for an MRI. We won't officially know the extent of his injury until then, but it sounds like Napoli might not actually be able to utilize their new player for awhile.
It's a blow to Napoli to lose Grassi already, because he was likely to have a significant positive impact on the side. His skills as a defensive-minded midfielder are still developing -- he is just 20, after all -- but Grassi is already enjoying a solid start to his career, performing well much more often than not in his 13 games for Atalanta this season. While what Napoli really need right now is an advanced playmaker who can back up Marek Hamsik, Grassi's presence on the depth chart still would have improved the midfield depth as a whole, providing Maurizio Sarri with another option for his rotation.
Grassi's signing is more for the future than for this season, though, and his future looks bright -- assuming that this knee injury doesn't derail his career, that is. His current skill on the ball suggests the ability to develop into a solid presence in the passing game, and his ability out of possession is already notable for it's quality. That's not to say that he's going to be be the next Daniele De Rossi -- who despite his penchant for picking up cards was a monstrous midfielder at his peak -- but you don't have to be that good to be a very valuable player indeed.
We'll still come back later with Transfer Scouting on Grassi -- he has signed, after all -- but the more immediate concern and focus is seeing just what his injury situation is. As soon as we learn more, we'll bring it to you.