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Mercato Madness: Shapening The Knives

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Despite the club's sharpest needs being in defense, some reinforcement up front would be quite helpful as well.

Claudio Villa

With the transfer window fast approaching and the Serie A stretch run in sight, reinforcements are needed for Napoli's squad. We've already discussed the defensive needs at length, but the squad could do with some more help than just that. Additional bodies at thee other end of the pitch would be quite useful as well.

The most vital need in attack is, as we've seen over the last month, a proper backup for Marek Hamsik. Goran Pandev is a decent enough player, but as the creative focal point of the squad he comes up severely lacking. Using the trio of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and Jose Callejon to share the playmaking load has served as a good stopgap, but lacks the ability to break down a well-packed defense.

While bringing in someone close to the playmaking talent that Hamsik posses is out of the question (let's face it, few players are at that level), getting in someone who can operate well as the pivot point of a team's attack would allow Napoli to maintain their attacking balance when the Slovakian wonder is out. That's been the biggest problem during Hamsik's spells on the sideline this season: the team is built so specifically for him to run, that without a proper playmaker in the middle it just doesn't click right.

There are some interesting options that could be available. Hiroshi Kiyotake would be both a good backup and a potential marketing boon to tap in to, as Japanese internationals often bring a lot of attention from their fans back home. He's a valuable piece for Nuremberg, but the German club is sitting in the Bundesliga's relegation zone and doesn't look all that likely to stay up. Glyfi Sigurdsson was a priority transfer target for Tottenham just a year and a half ago, but has seen irregular usage this season and his club is in something of a state of turmoil now after Andres Villas-Boas was sacked. Dennis Praet could be an interesting, if somewhat undeveloped, option, especially if Napoli wants to look to the future a bit for the spot.

Another priority for Napoli should be someone who can play second fiddle to Gonzalo Higuain. Pandev being freed up by a playmaker purchase could ease this need somewhat, but he doesn't operate well as a lone striker up front. Duvan Zapata has done yeoman's work when called on off the bench, but few are comfortable with him as a starting option at this stage.

For those looking for something of a more Italian flavor, Nicola Pozzi immediately springs to mind. Largely marginalized at Sampdoria thanks to Manolo Gabbiadini, Pozzi could easily be made available by Samp to help them fund purchases to reinforce their squad elsewhere and hold themselves above the relegation struggle. Carlos Bacca could be an option as well, despite having just arrived at Spain's Sevilla in the summer, as his current side is in poor financial shape and apparently will be selling off several "big" players next month to keep out of trouble.

One other spot that might be considered would be to add additional depth out wide. Insigne, Mertens, and Callejon have been run pretty hard this season, and were showing signs of wearing down a bit by the time the winter break began, especially Callejon. Bringing in someone else to add another name to the rotation certainly seems like a good idea to keep them from breaking down during the stretch run. Someone like a Kevin Volland, who was linked to Napoli at times last summer, would make a lot of sense, as he can operate well as a starter, but also has skills that would allow him to make a significant impact off the bench.

All in all, there's a lot of potential holes for Napoli to fill. The most important are undoubtedly on the defensive end of the pitch, but there are legitimate needs up front as well. It's going to be a delicate balancing act to prioritize how to use any available transfer funds next month, but with some effective spending, Napoli could become a force to be reckoned with in Italy.