Manchester United full-back Matteo Darmian has been linked with a move away from the club after just one season. Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, via the Sun, has reported that Darmian is Napoli’s “dream” target for their defence this summer and that United manager Jose Mourinho apparently has no place for the Italian in his team.
Napoli is looking forward to a summer of spending, following their record sale of star striker Gonzalo Higuain to rivals Juventus after triggering his £79 million release clause, but they are also looking at another big departure, this time of defender Kalidou Koulibaly. with Everton and Chelsea looking to snap up the Senegalese defender. With such a massive income from outgoing transfers, it’s safe to assume that Napoli is looking to sign multiple players this summer, something they have done before.
Napoli has experienced selling a star striker before when they sold Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain in 2013. They spent most on Cavani’s replacement, Higuain, but they also made many smaller signings to improve all areas of the first team, including Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens, Raul Albiol, Faozi Ghoulam, and Jorginho. It seems like Napoli could be planning the same type of transfers this summer, with Inter captain Mauro Icardi and Olympique Lyon midfielder Corentin Tolisso already linked. With an even bigger fee for Higuain, plus whatever Koulibaly ends up going for, Napoli could afford to go for bigger players, including Darmian.
Darmian is also not the first right back that has been linked with Napoli. Before him, Napoli was in negotiations with Sassuolo for Sime Vrsaljko. However, the Croatian had no interest in signing for Napoli, and instead signed for Atletico Madrid.
Now that we’ve covered why Napoli could be going after Darmian, let’s move on to why I don’t believe the move will happen.
First of all, I’m not sure why Napoli would feel the need to sign him at all. While Darmian is a quality player, they currently have one of, if not the best right back in the league in Elseid Hysaj. The Albanian international has just returned from representing his country in the European Championship, and was easily the team’s brightest spark in the tournament, continuing his club form. Napoli also seems to understand the quality of the player they have, as they have been negotiating an extension for Hysaj’s contract, as reported by Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio. With Napoli looking to keep the talented defender, it’s unlikely that they would really need Darmian, or at least wouldn’t push too hard if United aren’t looking to sell.
“But didn’t the report says Mourinho doesn’t want him?”, I hear you ask. The thing is, no disrespect to either publication, I don’t believe that to be the case.
Some of you may have sniggered reading me describe Darmian as a “quality player” earlier. I won’t blame you for thinking his early form for United, when his borderline flawless performances won him the club’s player of the month award, as simply a purple patch. I also will not blame you for not watching him at Torino, where he was, in my opinion, one of the best full-backs in Europe. He was never an exciting player who would cause the opposition problems by bombing forward, but he was always a constantly tidy and solid defender. How his form plummeted at United, I can’t tell you, but what I can tell you is that he now has the perfect manager to bring the best out of him in Mourinho.
Mourinho has a liking of defensive minded full backs, with Paulo Ferreira at both Porto and his first spell at Chelsea, Alvaro Arbeloa at Real Madrid, and Cesar Azpilicueta upon his return to Chelsea all becoming an important part of each of those teams. I have no doubt that Mourinho can return Darmian to his old self again, and improve him beyond that. And if he thinks the same way, there’s no way he would let him leave.