Serie A giants Napoli are ready to rival Arsenal for Azzurri strike star Mario Balotelli and believe an offer of €23m plus Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili could be enough to persuade AC Milan to snub a straight cash bid from the Premier League, according to Tuttosport.
Balotelli has emerged as Arsene Wenger's top summer transfer target as the Gunners boss looks to find quality competition for Olivier Giroud in attack, leading to a meeting with the forward's agent Mino Raiola in Brazil this weekend.
The 23-year-old has now also emerged as a surprise target for Napoli though, who are building a contingency if Argentina marksman Gonzalo Higuain is lured back to La Liga by Barcelona before the start of next season.
Wenger vs. Benitez
Higuain's future could well hold the key to a transfer summer merry-go-round, with Barca ready to launch a £45m offer after the World Cup, which despite being Balotelli's focus as I type has not stopped speculation surrounding two of Serie A's most clinical finishers.
Arsenal are still the only side to sound out Milan over Balotlelli's availability and approach his representative Raiola with a contract offer worth £180,000-a-week, although Tuttosport believe Napoli can match those terms if their coach Rafael Benitez thinks he's worth the trouble.
Benitez believes Balotelli has the physical presence and technical qualities to play in a lone front role in his preferred 4-2-3-1 system if Higuain moves on, which means he's prepared to let long-range shot specialist Dzemaili leave in part exchange, a proposal Milan are ready to consider.
Milan have asked Arsenal for something similar and would like to take Costa Rica hitman Joel Campbell as part of any deal which sees maverick Mario make a swift exit after just 18 months at the San Siro, but this is not a proposal Wenger is prepared to accept.
Arsenal fans are no doubt frustrated that as we head towards July their long-serving supremo has failed to spend any of his £100m transfer warchest, with the excuse of World Cup commitments wearing thin after Chelsea managed to tie down former Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas in a £27m move while the tournament was in progress.
Wenger, Benitez and any other scouts watching Balotelli when Italy faced Costa Rica on Friday evening would have no doubt been left disappointed though with controversial forward missing a golden opportunity before fading out of a shock 1-0 defeat for the Azzurri which leaves them fighting for qualification to the knockout stages.
Italy will meet Uruguay in a do-or-die clash on Uruguay, with at least two top European giants waiting on the outcome of that clash before bidding to close a blockbuster deal for one of the continent's most talented, if enigmatic attacking stars.