Color me shocked: reports out of Italy indicate that not only will Juventus not sign Sime Vrsaljko as has been assumed for weeks, but that Napoli will be signing the Sassuolo fullback for €15 million, making the talented Croatian their second signing already this summer.
Both Juventus and, apparently, Manchester City will be left scrambling to find other options to improve themselves at right back with Vrsaljko off the market, but in the meantime Napoli fans will be trying to digest just what this move means for the team. There's been vague rumors of Napoli wanting Vrsaljko for the past week or so, but those had the feel of a team being used as negotiation leverage than as anything real -- which is why said rumors never showed up here. Now it suddenly looks very, very real, and it's caught a lot of people off guard.
Of course, it's easy to like this move, and for a lot of reasons. Vrsalko is, after all, a very talented right back, consistently performing as one of Sassuolo's best players over the last two seasons and earning a regular role in the Croatian national team. He would be a very valuable piece for Napoli to add, especially heading into the Champions League next season. It's hard to even get upset about the fee -- Vrsaljko probably could go for more than that, and Napoli are rumored to be getting a couple first-refusal options on other Sassuolo players. We were even huge fans of the idea of Vrsaljko coming to the San Paolo last summer.
The questions, and the potential issue, arise when you look at Napoli's other right back: Elseid Hysaj. The young Albanian had an absolutely tremendous campaign for the partenopei, and you could argue that he had a better season at the back than Vrsaljko. The Croatian is the better player in the final third, but in terms of defensive duties, Hysaj clearly outshone him last season.
So what happens to Hysaj now? You don't spend that much money on a player to plonk him on the bench -- well, unless you're Juventus or a big English club -- and Napoli can't afford to spend that on an occasional defensive rotational option. It's not like Vrsaljko would accept this move if that was to be his role anyways. Sure, you need depth in the Champions League, but two clear starting-quality right backs seems a tick excessive, not to mention hard to balance in terms of playing time. So what happens to Hysaj? Is he being sold, or is a quality player being doomed to the bench?
No matter what happens, this apparent signing signals one thing for Napoli fans: this summer is gonna get weird.