Rafael Benitez is on the hunt for a solid midfielder to anchor his Napoli side next season, a search that has reportedly led him to cast an eye towards former employers Liverpool.
The Spanish coach has seen attempts for both Javier Mascherano and Maxime Gonalons fall by the wayside in recent months, with Lucas Leiva emerging as a new target.
Emre Can’s arrival on Merseyside has called the Brazilian’s future into question, leaving Benitez eyeing up the opportunity to reunite with the midfielder he brought to Anfield in 2007.
But to date, negotiations for Lucas have not gone Napoli’s way. The Serie A giants seem keen to pick him up on a simple loan, while Liverpool are reportedly interested in a straight sale or paid loan at the very least.
According to Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, Benitez’s side are now looking to Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka - otherwise known as the ‘young Schweinsteiger’.
Di Marzio writes: ’The 21-year-old Swiss midfielder is a top target for De Laurentiis’ club. There was a meeting with the player’s agent/father, Monchengladbach are asking for €10 million, the negotiation could take off if Napoli can find a new team for Dzemaili and/or Behrami.’
If Napoli are to be pressed into making a straight purchase to bolster their midfield, logic would suggest that Xhaka - linked with the Reds over the course of last season - would be the more sensible buy over Lucas.
The Switzerland international is both younger and, by all indications, significantly cheaper than Benitez’s former charge at Anfield.
Should Liverpool remain unwilling to budge on their terms for Lucas, they may find Napoli’s attention turn firmly to Xhaka should the conditions come to pass to ramp up their pursuit.
Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis has always looked concerned with getting the best value whilst bolstering Benitez’s midfield, and Xhaka seems the superior option in this case.