Napoli must overcome a poor start to the season if they are to have any hope of keeping Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain at the club next summer.
Rafael Benitez’s side were dumped out of the Champions League in the qualification stages by a superb Athletic Bilbao, and have managed just two wins from their opening five Serie A games.
And with Brendan Rodgers keen on bringing him to Liverpool, Napoli must fight back and provide enough evidence that the Stadio San Paulo is where his future lies.
In his maiden season in Naples following a summer move from Real Madrid, Higuain shone and established himself as one of the finest marksmen in world football.
Despite narrowly missing out on the Golden Boot to Ciro Immoible of Torino he managed to find the net 24 times in 46 games to help justify his £32million price tag.
There was silverware as well, the Argentinean helping to secure the Coppa Italia by starting the 3-1 final against Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina in Rome back in May.
After such a fine season he was included in Alejandro Sabella’s World Cup squad, and scored the winner as they dumped out Belgium in the quarter-finals in Brazil.
He was unfortunate to miss out on the most golden gong of all, with Mario Gotze ending any dreams with the winner for Germany in the final, but did enough to show his capabilities on football’s grandest stage.
When it became clear that Luis Suarez would be joining Barcelona, Higuain was one of many names linked with a summer transfer to Anfield.
Liverpool sounded Napoli out but baulked at the asking price Benitez demanded, before Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers were approached for France striker Loic Remy.
The deal then fell through – and Remy himself moved to Chelsea late in the window instead – but Serie A saw Mario Balotelli leave to rekindle his love affair with the Premier League.
Higuain had also been linked with a move to the Nou Camp but Suarez’s arrival signalled an end to the Catalonian’s interest.
With Balotelli struggling to adjust to life outside of Italy, Napoli are on red alert for a bid for their talisman in the foreseeable future if the former Manchester City forward continues to toil.
Save the season
Roberto Mancini has been touted as a possible successor to Benitez if the Italian giants cannot transform their season, but the club will hope the weekend’s 1-0 win away at Sassuolo sparks an upturn in fortune.
Liverpool have started the laboriously themselves and may miss out if they fail to qualify for the Champions League, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United already above them in the table.
Much relies on how the season plays out. Only in May will the 26-year-old’s future become much clearer.
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