Napoli vice president eyes Koulibaly and Mertens renewals, refuses to rule out Dybala move

By Sports Desk July 10, 2022

Napoli vice president Edoardo De Laurentiis remains hopeful of tying Kalidou Koulibaly and Dries Mertens down to new contracts, although he is uncertain why the former is yet to commit his future to the Partenopei.

Meanwhile, De Laurentiis has refused to rule out a move for free agent Paulo Dybala after the talented Argentinian left Juventus.

Napoli enjoyed a promising first season under Luciano Spalletti last term, finishing third in Serie A after threatening to win a first Scudetto since Diego Maradona starred in their 1989-90 triumph.

Both Koulibaly and Mertens played key roles for Spalletti's men, with the Senegal captain helping Napoli concede the joint-fewest goals (31) and keep the second-most clean sheets (16) in Serie A.

Mertens, meanwhile, scored 11 league goals last term, a figure only bettered by Victor Osimhen (14) among Napoli players.

But having already lost Lorenzo Insigne to Major League Soccer team Toronto FC in the off-season, Napoli are yet to agree fresh contract terms with either of their star duo.

Koulibaly has just one year remaining on his deal, and De Laurentiis is keen to see him extend his eight-year stay with the club.

"We offered him €6million net per season for the next 5 years, I don't know what to tell you better than this," he said.

"Why hasn't he accepted yet? I can't get into every single player's head.

"What we have offered him is not cheap, especially after the pandemic. Koulibaly is a great man and over the years he has proven to be a great person, for us to confirm him is the most important thing in the world."

De Laurentiis is more hopeful of reaching an agreement with the club's record scorer Mertens, who has been out of contract since the end of last month.  

"We also offered him a very important figure," De Laurentiis said, referring to the Belgium international.

"We offered him €2.5m net and for me he will accept, Naples is a city that has given him a lot and can still give him a lot. In life we must always be positive."

Meanwhile, the loss of Insigne has led to speculation Napoli could rival other Serie A clubs for Dybala's signature, and De Laurentiis has refused to rule out making an offer to the 28-year-old, despite sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli claiming the attacker was "out of reach" on Saturday.

Asked about Dybala, De Laurentiis quipped: "Who knows? The ways of the lord are infinite."

Napoli begin their 2022-23 Serie A campaign with a trip to Hellas Verona on August 15.

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    A difficult run of results – starting with a draw at Manchester United and followed by home defeats to Atalanta and Crystal Palace – ended with a 1-0 Europa League victory in Bergamo but that could not prevent their exit from the Europa League 3-1 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage.

    A first clean sheet in 10 matches was a boost to confidence, especially as they continue to struggle to find their best form at the other end of the pitch, and Klopp thinks the two-point gap to leaders Manchester City can be overhauled with a perfect run in.

    “It’s not obviously in our hands, it is not about that,” said Klopp.

    “I think if we would win all our games there is a good chance we will be champion. If not there is a good chance someone else will be champion.

    “Maybe we only have to win five, but nobody knows. Who would have thought that Arsenal lose against Aston Villa?

    “We all sit here and think ‘OK, yeah. City will win all their games’ and that’s happened quite frequently, but they have a lot of games to play and difficult opponents as well.

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    Over the course of their recent rivalry, Liverpool have had a couple of seasons where the race to the line with City has seen them miss out by just a point despite matching each other win-for-win for the majority of the run in.

    But Klopp said that experience was not necessarily as positive as onlookers may believe.

    “When we were in the position we didn’t win the league in the end. We lost by a point and stuff like that. What kind of experience is that?” he added.

    “We know how to get there – and then don’t (win). It’s not about that.

    “It’s good to know that you are good and you can cause other teams problems.

    “But the thing is clear: if you want to be champion in the Premier League you have to be close to perfect and if you are not perfect you have to deal with the setbacks in the best possible way or in a perfect way.

    “That is what we are now doing. We had a setback week with three games we didn’t like too much, the results especially, and now we have to start turning it around.”

    Key to turning things around will be a change in fortunes in front of goal.

    Three goals in their last four matches has stalled their progress with the forwards failing to take numerous opportunities they have created.

    Mohamed Salah, whom Klopp defended after he missed a key chance to make it 2-0 against Atalanta, has scored six – two of which were penalties – in 11 matches since returning from two months out with a hamstring injury.

    Luis Diaz has two in eight games, Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo have just one in their last seven, while Diogo Jota has yet to find the net in three appearances since returning injury.

    “We had good moments and had an awful lot of chances, and didn’t use one of them more of less,” said Klopp.

    “That’s not great but the worst thing in football is not to have chances. It is better you deal with chances you miss than you have no chances.

    “That’s why I’m absolutely positive and after processing things properly, yeah, I’m more than happy with the situation.”

  • Coventry boss Mark Robins: Manchester United are the ‘biggest club in the world’ Coventry boss Mark Robins: Manchester United are the ‘biggest club in the world’

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    Ferguson’s latest successor in the hot seat, Erik ten Hag, could do with firming up his own position and could find himself on extremely rocky ground if the Red Devils were denied a shot at silverware by Championship opposition.

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    The Sky Blues booked their place in the last four with a dramatic 3-2 win over Wolves, with stoppage-time strikes from Ellis Simms and Haji Wright completing a remarkable upset.

    The euphoria of that result has not carried in to their league form though, with three losses in their last four games leaving their play-off hopes – and regular games against the likes of United – all but over.

    With that in mind, Robins has urged everyone connected to the club to make the most of the experience in front of them.

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    Jurgen Klopp is not overly worried by Mohamed Salah’s slight dip in form, as the Liverpool manager turned full focus to the Reds’ Premier League title challenge.

    A bad week for Liverpool was capped off on Thursday when, despite a 1-0 win over Atalanta, they slumped out of the Europa League 3-1 on aggregate following a heavy defeat at Anfield in the first leg.

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    What has not helped their course is that talisman Salah – who netted an early penalty against Atalanta but squandered a big chance later in the match – has scored just three times in the league since returning from a hamstring injury he sustained while playing for Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

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    “I am not particularly concerned,” he said ahead of facing Fulham.

    “That’s what strikers do, that’s what happens to strikers, that’s how it is. We have to go through this, he has to go through that. He is one of the most experienced players we have in the squad.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Fulham – Andreas Pereira

    Pereira has been involved in four goals in his last four Premier League appearances (two goals, two assists), with his brace against West Ham more than he had netted in his previous 34 games combined (one).

    Indeed, Pereira has more goal involvements than any other Fulham player since the start of last season (seven goals, 13 assists).

    Liverpool – Mohamed Salah

    Salah may not be firing on all cylinders from a goalscoring perspective, but he is proving to be Liverpool’s creative hub.

    Only Martin Odegaard (68) and Bruno Fernandes (59) have created more chances from open play in the Premier League this season than Salah (58). He has created at least four open-play chances in five different games this season, with Roberto Firmino the last Liverpool player to do so more times in one season (10 in 2016-17).

    MATCH PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL WIN

    The Reds might have had a bad week, but Opta’s model still fancies their chances of returning to winning ways.

    Liverpool have scored in each of their last 19 away Premier League matches, the longest current run of any side. That being said, since losing 3-0 to Brentford in their first home Premier League game this season, Fulham have conceded just 13 goals in their last 15 games at Craven Cottage (0.9 per game). With six clean sheets at home so far, the Cottagers last had more in a Premier League campaign in 2010-11 (nine).

    Marco Silva’s team have scored 49 Premier League goals this season, having netted 55 last season. The last time the Cottagers scored 50+ goals in consecutive Premier League seasons was in 2003-04 (52) and 2004-05 (52).

    However, Fulham have won just one of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D2 L8), winning 1-0 at Anfield in March 2021.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Fulham – 20.85%

    Liverpool – 53.1%

    Draw – 26.1%

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