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Mercato Madness: Muddled In The Middle

In the wake of continuing rumors of Jorginho potentially joining Napoli, more transfer talk involving midfielders has emerged.

Clive Mason

With some fairly clear needs for the club in the middle of the pitch, both for the rest of this season and heading forwards, it's reasonable to see why there have been so many rumors involving varying kinds of midfielders. Jorginho was the last man linked to a move to Naples, and a few new rumors have popped up since then.

The biggest, and in some ways most plausible, is a link to Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue. The 25 year old Frenchman arrived at Tottenham just last summer for €11 million and initially was a very important piece of Tottenham's squad, though an injury spell limited his appearances during the fall. He put in a number of strong performances in a defensive midfield role, especially in Europa League play and covering in the league for Sandro, who's still working his way back to full form and fitness after a serious knee injury last year. Capoue's flexibility also came in handy during a harsh run of defensive injuries at the London club, as he was able to step in and cover at center back when needed.

However, Capoue has recently fallen out of favor after the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas, as new manager Tim Sherwood as preferred Nabil Bentaleb in his place. Capoue has started just once for Sherwood and made one substitute appearance. That's lead to talk that the Frenchman wants out, with most of the rumors focused on Napoli wanting to bring him in to reinforce their midfield. The fit makes sense, as Capoue's style of play fits what Rafa Benitez likes from his defensive mids well, as he's equally capable of shielding the back line and going box-to-box in support of the attack. He's quite useful on set pieces at both ends of the pitch as well, which would be a nice bonus for Napoli.

Tottenham are believed to want €10 million for Capoue to help offset most of what they just spent to bring him in. Antonio De Laurentiis has denied rumors that Napoli offered €9 million for the Frenchman, and current speculation seems focused on a loan for the rest of the season with an option to buy in the summer. That seems like the best fit for both clubs as well as Capoue in order to get him in to a better situation. Riccardo Bigon has supposedly gone to London to work on the move, so expect to see more on this in the rumor mill over the next few days.

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There's also been more talk of departures from Napoli, with the spotlight continuing to be squarely on Gokhan Inler. After links to Manchester United over recent weeks, there's also been recent speculation that Liverpool might be interested as well. Inler makes a lot of sense for the needs of both clubs, and if Napoli felt they needed to sell a player to help fund further transfer activity this month, he could fetch a pretty penny or two.

It's worth nothing that the source of the Liverpool rumor is a little dubious; talkSport seems to be the genesis, quoting nebulous "sources in Italy", though the usual Italian sources seem to be quoting the talkSport report. Echo chambers are fun like that.

Also of note, Manchester United manager David Moyes was at the Atalanta match to watch potential transfer targets. English papers had him focusing on Marek Hamsik, but that seems like a dubious fit for United for a variety pack of reasons. Hamsik just doesn't fit what Moyes does tactically, though Inler would do quite a bit to help United's cause down the stretch run of the season.

As much as it'd be preferable to keep Inler around, he's starting to seem like perhaps not a great fit for Rafa's system. As he can still bring in a healthy transfer fee, using his sale to fund the acquisition of players like Jorginho and Capoue might be the best thing for Napoli in the long run. It's a harsh business, but sometimes it's necessary for the greater good.