In the waning days leading up to the start of the World Cup finals in Brazil, reports emerged claiming that Arsenal had taken an interest in Napoli starlet Lorenzo Insigne.
The 23-year-old’s agent responded with flattery but was quick to point out that doing a deal would be a supremely difficult task for the Gunners.
And Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis soon confirmed this by laughing off the idea of a €20 million offer - and saying that the starlet is instead worth upwards of €60 million.
That figure may seem like lunacy for a player who tallied three goals and six assists in Serie A last season. The truth, however, is that to the San Paolo outfit - and De Laurentiis - he’s that valuable.
Insigne isn’t just a talented youngster on Napoli’s books. He’s a born and raised Neapolitan that has spent his entire career with his hometown side. The diminutive winger has become a symbol of the future of a club resuscitated from bankruptcy; one that craves a return to the glory of the heady days when Diego Maradona gracefully roamed the San Paolo pitch.
And for that reason, De Laurentiis knows he’d be remiss to sell Insigne. He means too much to Napoli and its fans - sections of which have been critical of De Laurentiis' leadership at times.
But beyond the near untouchable nature of his fledgling star, De Laurentiis is a businessman at heart. The movie mogul sold icons Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi when pressed - and for anybody not named Insigne, would possibly be willing to negotiate in the coming months.
If Arsenal can’t get their hands on Insigne, looking to Dries Mertens instead could potentially be a wise move.
The Belgian joined Napoli last summer for €9.5 million, giving a good account of himself in his Serie A bow with 11 goals and five assists. And he’s carried this form over to the World Cup, where he’s been an influential figure so far as Marc Wilmots’ side have secured qualification to the round of 16 early.
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Like Insigne, Mertens boasts pace out wide, trickery, creativity and is considerable threat on free-kicks. He ticks all the boxes with respect to what Arsenal need to add to their attack.
Of course, his impressive run and short tenure in southern Italy mean the Gunners would have to tack on a significant sum to the €9.5 million Napoli paid for him. But with Insigne off limits and Mertens proving his quality, the Belgian represents be a worthwhile target.
Furthermore, Napoli are known to be tracking Croatian winger Ivan Perisic. If they get their man, De Laurentiis may just be willing to negotiate for Mertens should the price be right with a replacement in place.
Insigne looks a bridge too far for Arsenal - or any side for that matter - but his fellow wide-man could foreseeably be available if the Gunners could convince Napoli to sell with the right offer.