With Gonzalo Higuain all set to join Juventus for a quite mind-boggling fee of €94m, it's time for Napoli to look around for El Pipita's replacement, and they know full well that they have no time to waste.
Many, many names have been plucked out of the air by the Italian media in the last 24 hours, since it was discovered that Higuain has already completed a top-secret medical for Juventus in Madrid. Carlos Bacca, Álvaro Morata, Arkadiusz Milik, Alexandre Lacazette and even Carlos Tevez have been suggested as forwards who could fill the Argentine's enormous shoes up front, but the man Napoli and in particular coach Maurizio Sarri seem to have put at the top of their shopping list is Mauro Icardi, who is thought to be the ideal heir (despite what Diego Maradona might have to say about that).
Icardi is Napoli's first choice for the post-Higuain era and as such they have already begun their assault at Maurito, holding a meeting with intermediaries in Verona while Wanda Nara listened in via a phone link from Milan. This much we know for sure because Wanda herself confirmed it on Twitter, as is her wont.
According to Sky Sport, Napoli are willing to offer Icardi wages in excess of €5m per season - in comparison to the €3.2m he currently earns here at Inter - as well as 50% of his infamous image rights, which would represent a very important concession from a club who normally insists on owning all of their players' image rights (and has lost several signings as a result). In other words, they really want to tempt him. His entourage have listened with interest to this proposal and would probably agree to such a deal, which would then allow De Laurentiis and sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli to open negotiations with Inter having already got the player onboard and put them in a stronger position. The first offer they would place in front of the Nerazzurri is thought to be in the region of €42m, but following that they would be willing to raise it to somewhere between €55m and €60m, while Manolo Gabbiadini - a player Roberto Mancini is known to like - could also be roped into the affair.
The problem for Napoli here is simple: Inter do not have even the slightest interest in selling Icardi, and they have made that very clear from the beginning of this summer's transfer window. Icardi is captain of the team and renewed his contract until 2019 just twelve months ago, and new owners Suning are anything but convinced to let him go just a month after taking over the club. Piero Ausilio reiterated this stance last month when Wanda began blabbering to anyone who would listen about how Inter had the moral obligation to increase his wages, and nothing has changed from that point despite her having held well-publicised talks with both Arsenal and Napoli. Therefore, as things stand, the chances Icardi makes this move down South are pretty slim.
What might change things is if Icardi himself were to go to Inter and demand to be let go, but 1) it remains to be seen whether a man who has always spoken of his desire to leave Inter would be willing to do that, and 2) even in that case Inter would take a lot of convincing. Napoli will not let this deal fall through without a fight though, because they know full well that they need to make a big signing up front to ensure they're competitive in this season's Champions League, on top of the need to placate a pretty cheesed-off fanbase that has just seen their hero join their bitterest rivals. With that in mind, we cannot be 100% sure of Icardi staying at Inter until the transfer window slams shut on 31 August, but it would certainly be a surprise if it happened.
My view on this is pretty clear: Icardi cannot be sold to Napoli, for almost any figure at all. Even if Gabbiadini is offered as a bargaining chip. By agreeing to a deal of this nature we would not only be reinforcing a direct rival that we know we need to overtake this season in order to return to the Champions League, we would also let Napoli off the hook by inheriting the very problem they are suffering at the moment: not having prepared adequately for losing your star player. And as if that isn't enough, the club would also further infuriate all the Interisti - not to mention Mancini himself, whose future is anything but certain - that are concerned at our lack of movement in the mercato. It's a no, no and no again as far as I'm concerned, even if Icardi were to start pushing for a move (there's always the substitutes' bench if he stays and starts getting grumpy).
Only if they offered an astronomical fee - in the region of €70m - AND we already had a sufficient replacement lined up (which we don't appear to have) could this be considered a good thing to do in my opinion. Otherwise we're idiots. Complete idiots. At least that's how I see it - I'm aware that a lot of Inter fans would quite like to see the back of Icardi after the events of the last few weeks, and maybe they're right to feel like that. We have the luxury of knowing how much money Napoli have at their disposal, and we must make use of that knowledge, refusing to accept any offer that could be defined as 'non-crazy'. (Of course, if they were to offer €80m or indeed all the money they've just received for Higuain then that's fine, we'll happily accept it and rebuild our entire team. But that's unlikely to happen.)
The chances of this deal really happening are low at the moment, but we all know how bizarre and terrifying the transfer window can be these days. One thing is for sure - Napoli want Icardi, and they are going to try pretty much everything in their power to pinch him from us. It's up to the club to put their foot down and rebuff their offensive. We haven't heard the last of this yet...