Napoli were left scrambling over the weekend when arch-rivals Juvenus surprised the footballing world by triggering Gonzalo Higuain's release clause, despite adamantly insisting that they would not do so just a week before. Now they desperately need to find another high-end striker before the season begins, and right now it looks like they've cast a fairly wide net in their search, headlined by Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi.
Before the release clause was triggered, the general rumor was that Napoli had Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud on top of their shopping list if they needed to replace Higuain, but since then those options have been dismissed as unrealistic. Instead, they largely seem to be looking at younger strikers, but two more veteran names have made the rounds as well, names that are very intriguing in their own right.
Those veterans are ex-Juventus striker Carlos Tevez and AC Milan frontman Carlos Bacca. Tevez, currently with Boca Juniors in Argentina and definitely on the downside of his career at 32, still has the know-how and fight to give Napoli one more good year, and would especially make sense as an option if Napoli want to keep and re-build Manolo Gabbiadini, though their intentions there are unclear at best right now. Sadly, while he acknowledged Napoli's interest, he also declared that he's not interested in leaving Boca at this point of his career.
Bacca is an unpopular figure among the Napoli fanbase for varying reasons, but he's still an interesting option to consider. He showed last season that when he has reliable service from the players behind him, he can score goals with the best of them -- but with Milan's midfield struggling for health and form all season, that happened a lot less often than fans would have wanted. He lacks the creative nous to help himself as Higuain did, and while Napoli's midfield is far steadier and more creative than Milan's is, the €30 million price tag and the fact that Bacca turns 30 in September are good reasons to consider other options.
Among younger players, two options that have been named stand out from the rest: Inter's Maruo Icardi and Olympique Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette. The links to Lacazette are a little bit tenuous and may seem like an unlikely option for Napoli to go for considering their rather negative history in trying to work transfers with Lyon, but the 25 year old's goalscoring record and silky skills on the pitch are undeniable. Lyon are asking a lot for him -- their asking price is believed to be around €60 million -- but that number becomes easier to stomach with Napoli getting the Higuain money and with what's coming up next.
Napoli's actual, widely-reported efforts to sign a striker have so far centered on Mauro Icardi. If you thought Bacca was unpopular among Napoli fans, go look at what they're saying about Icardi. Just 23 and already with a capocannoniere title under his belt for his 22-goal outburst two seasons ago, Icardi looks on paper like a perfect option for Napoli. But then you look at his clashes with Inter management over the last two years, his controversy-stirring wife-slash-agent, and his long slumps in form over the last two season, and suddenly Icardi gets a lot less interesting.
The slumps could be dismissed given his youth, but the rest of the distractions around Icardi make him an unattractive option. Add to that his very static, uninvolved style of play that meshes poorly with Maurizio Sarri's tactics and Inter demanding more than Lyon are asking for Lacazette, and Napoli should definitely be looking elsewhere.
The good news is that Napoli are moving as fast as they can to bring in as good of as a striker as they possibly can, because they know that they need to. But right now most of the options being discussed are far from thrilling, and all have their own problems from Napoli's perspective. Hopefully they make a positive move towards Lacazette, because he would seem to be the best option of t hose who have been named so far, or they can pull something else even better out of the woodwork. Either way, Napoli need to find someone ... soon.