Premier League side Everton failed to land a recognised playmaker during the summer months, but could do a lot worse than securing a deal for Empoli star Riccardo Saponara.
Highly-rated midfielder Saponara has proven a revelation for the little Tuscan outfit, having previously been ignored during an unhappy 18-month spell at AC Milan.
The Rossoneri acquired him from Empoli, only to freeze him out of their plans for the 2013/14 campaign, plus the opening half of the subsequent term.
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He made just eight Serie A appearances for the Milanese giants in total – three as a starter – before finding his way back to the loving arms of the Stadio Carlo Castellani last January.
After a highly promising end to last season, Saponara is again making waves amid familiar surroundings with the aesthetically-pleasing Azzurri, thus prompting strong interest from England and within Serie A circles.
Juventus, Napoli and Everton are all said to be interested in the services of the ex-Ravenna starlet, while his current employers desperately attempt to hold on to their prized asset until next summer at least.
The mid-table dwellers have one trump card to play in a bid to keep the 23-year-old on board: his burning ambition to represent Italy at Euro 2016.
Saponara will be well aware his chances of featuring in France shall be greatly enhanced by regular first-team action, rather than running the risk of plunging himself into a daunting battle for a starting spot in a stronger squad elsewhere.
Additionally, his chastening experience at Milan will hardly encourage the one-time winger to make a switch to a bigger club in the near future.
However, his burgeoning talent is such that it seems only a matter of time before the visionary midfielder finally moves on.
The former Italy Under-21 international hit the ground running when making 17 appearances at the beginning of his second spell in Tuscany, hitting seven league goals along the way.
That sparkling form continued unabated into this term, as he quickly cultivated an enviable record of four goals and three assists from just eight Serie A games played.
Even a frustrating three-match suspension served in October failed to halt his progress, as his clever free-kick earned a crucial away victory at Palermo last Monday to underline his enduring importance.
Saponara boasts wonderful technique on the ball, sublime finishing ability and that rare knack to slice open a defence with one killer pass. In addition, he isn’t afraid to have a crack at goal, as shown by the 3.5 shots-per-game ratio attempted so far this season.
Having made his name under current Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri at Empoli, it appears logical that any approach from the high-flying southern club would be welcomed.
Juventus also remain in the market for a playmaker due to their inability to bring in a suitable option last summer, with last-ditch arrival Hernanes struggling to make an impact.
Therefore, Everton will have a mightily tough task on their hands to convince Saponara that a new adventure in England is right for him.
But, should Toffees boss Roberto Martinez work his charm on the Emilia-Romagna native, then he would potentially find the perfect solution to the Goodison Park club’s number 10 conundrum.