Napoli could scupper the future plans of Tottenham and Chelsea by landing Aurelio De Laurentiis’ ‘dream’ signing this summer, according to a report from Italy.
Napoli tore Serie A up as they won the Scudetto for the first time since 1989-90. They won 28 of their 38 league matches, finishing on a hugely impressive 90 points and with a 16-point lead on second-placed Lazio.
Napoli were also hoping to reach the Champions League final for the first time in their history. However, they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Italian rivals Milan in the last four, which ended their European dreams.
De Laurentiis is facing a crucial summer as he looks to keep as much of the squad together as possible. Winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia looks set to stay by agreeing a bumper new contract, but striker Victor Osimhen and centre-back Kim Min-jae could both depart.
Kim is a top target for Man Utd to improve their defence, though they have decided Osimhen’s huge £150m price tag is too much. Instead, Osimhen is more likely to join Paris Saint-Germain this summer.
De Laurentiis also has some work to do to replace manager Luciano Spalletti. The 64-year-old has established himself as a hero in Naples after guiding the club to Serie A glory but has stepped down from the job a year before his contract is due to run out to take a break from the game.
According to Italian outlet Il Mattino, as cited by Area Napoli, Brighton coach Roberto De Zerbi has been earmarked as a potential top-class replacement.
De Zerbi replaced Graham Potter at Brighton in September and has done an excellent job to make the Seagulls even better to watch and more effective in the final third. Under De Zerbi, Brighton have finished sixth in the Prem and qualified for the Europa League for next term.
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His excellent achievements at the Amex have resulted in De Laurentiis ‘dreaming’ of making him Spalletti’s successor. The club president holds De Zerbi ‘in high esteem’ after Brighton ‘put on a show’ in the 2022-23 campaign.
Due to the intense interest, Brighton could soon receive contact from Napoli about their coach’s availability. It will be hard for Napoli to pull this raid off, given the fact De Zerbi is happy at Brighton and has only been there for less than a season.
But if Napoli do manage to take the 44-year-old tactician to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, then it would see Tottenham and Chelsea miss out.
Both London clubs have been linked with De Zerbi during their respective searches for a new coach. Spurs ended up appointing Ange Postecoglou from Celtic, while Chelsea have brought in former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.
If either of those managers flop and get sacked next season and De Zerbi remains at Brighton, then it is likely he would be high up on the two club’s lists of potential replacements. So if Napoli get to him first, then it could end up being a real blow.
Wherever De Zerbi goes in the future, Brighton fans will be very sad to lose him. The manager has made Brighton into one of the hardest teams to play against in the Prem. They are far better at taking their chances than they were under Potter, while still being able to play some electric football.
It will clearly be a blow for De Zerbi when Moises Caicedo inevitably follows Alexis Mac Allister out of the club this summer. But next on the conveyor belt of young stars with top potential are Evan Ferguson, Julio Enciso and Facundo Buonanotte.