Maxime Gonalons #21 of AS Roma
Gonalons, 28, came up through the ranks with hometown club Lyon having joined them in 2000, and he ended up tallying almost 350 appearances for the club, becoming a vital first-team player.
The holding midfielder also notched seven caps for France as he emerged as one of Europe's most underrated defensive midfield players – and this past summer, he decided it was time for a change.
Gonalons completed a summer move to Italian side Roma, penning a four-year contract as he brought his time with Lyon to an end, but he has made just two starts in all competitions so far this season.
Gonalons should still have a key part to play under Eusebio Di Francesco this season, and he will be hoping to feature against Napoli this weekend, given that the Serie A rivals attempted to sign him under Rafael Benitez.
Ahead of this weekend's game, Gonalons' agent Frederic Guerra has spoken to Radio Kiss Kiss (09/10/2017), as quoted by Il Napoli Online, stating that Gonalons was very close to signing for Napoli around three or four years ago.
Guerra added that Benitez was such a big fan of Gonalons that he even tried to bring him to Newcastle this past summer, but the midfielder decided to make the move to Italy instead.
“Maxime was very close to Napoli, three to four years ago,” said Guerra. “Benitez wanted him a lot, and wanted him this summer at Newcastle. We have preferred the Italian championship because it is very tactical football, and Maxime works on his game day after day,” he added.
Gonalons would have been a superb addition to the Newcastle midfield, but missing out on him may have forced the Magpies to push for the deal which saw Mikel Merino join from Borussia Dortmund – and given his youth and his excellent performances already, Benitez may just feel that he still snapped up an outstanding midfielder.