Just when things had taken a turn for the better for Lorenzo Insigne, the homegrown Napoli star has been dealt a bitter blow.
The 23-year-old came off in the 25th minute of the Partenopei’s 1-0 victory over Fiorentina on Sunday with a knee injury that would reportedly sideline him for two months.
But tests later revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which Insigne successfully underwent surgery for on Monday.
Successful surgery or not, however, the Italy international is set to be out of action for at least six months – just when he looked on course to reach top form.
Insigne had been linked with a summer move to Arsenal as his Napoli future looked in doubt, sections of the side’s support turning their backs on him.
Abused at an official club event and jeered from the stands by fans, for a moment the Gunners appeared to have a real chance to pry Insigne away from the San Paolo.
It wasn’t to be, however. And after a difficult start to the campaign, the youngster came on strong since early October to earn a new contract and restore his reputation.
Tragically for Insigne, he’s been stopped dead in his tracks by injury. Now Napoli are on the hunt for a replacement, as he likely won’t play again this season.
Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio has named Andre Ayew, Davy Klaassen and Ivan Perisic as target the Partenopei are looking at – but there’s another to consider.
“There’s a final name that can’t be ruled out: Erik Lamela,” Di Marzio’s report reads. “[Napoli owner Aurelio] De Laurentiis has always been a fan of the Tottenham ace.
“But it would be a high-calibre acquisition that would break the current balances. De Laurentiis will have the final say.
“These names are not considered only contingency plans to replace Insigne, but proper reinforcements that will be useful also after the return of the Italian attacker.”
In Lamela’s case, it’s quite difficult to see any scenario in which he ends up at the San Paolo, De Laurentiis’ eccentricity and financial clout notwithstanding.
After a horror first season at White Hart Lane, the Argentine has become a nailed-on starter under Mauricio Pochettino and is finally coming along at Spurs.
Napoli would need to offer upwards of £30 million to even make a sale remotely worth it for Spurs, while Pochettino will be wary of shaking up a delicate situation further.
And having lost out on Champions League revenues due to elimination in the play-off stage, Napoli don’t exactly have that kind of cash sitting in reserve.
Barring an unexpected power play from De Laurentiis, it doesn’t look like there’s much chance that Lamela will be deputizing for the fallen Insigne.
A replacement is likely to come in a lower-cost option such as Perisic, with the proper conditions for Lamela to move to the San Paolo simply not in place at the moment.