Juventus, Inter and Milan are all on the tail of the Belgian, while the Rossoneri are chasing a Champions League addition in the middle of the park
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent
January is expected to be a key period of the Serie A season, with several clubs needing an injection of new talent ahead of a crucial run-in to the 2013-14 campaign. Juventus will be looking to stamp further superiority on the title race, while additions are wanted at Inter in a bid to reach the Champions League and AC Milan are searching for reinforcements to help put them back on track.
With Andrea Pirlo’s contract situation a hot topic in Turin, the attention will be turned to adding a younger midfielder before the club board eventually look to resolve the 34-year-old’s future in February. Radja Nainggolan’s name has been constantly linked with the champions, but Inter and Milan are also blazing a trail towards the Cagliari midfielder.
There are other names that will be heard a lot during the January window, with Nainggolan’s team-mate Michael Agazzi chief among them. Below, we look at the main targets for the top clubs, plus the transfer plans of the best of the rest.
The champions had been expected by some to have made a decision on the future of Pirlo by now, but – as Goal revealed in September – the Bianconeri will wait until February to make a call on the metronomic midfielder’s expiring contract.
Juve want to form a clear picture in their minds as to where Pirlo stands in the Juve midfield beyond this season, as well as how that engine room will develop over time, before committing to a deal that will see the Italy international remain in black and white beyond the summer. Rumours on the peninsula suggest that Tottenham have been watching the 34-year-old closely, while Juve have been looking at Nainggolan as a potential addition.
The Cagliari star has been said to be “ideal” for Juve by the club’s managing director, Giuseppe Marotta, but the Isolani would need to drop their asking price if a deal was to be completed. The Bianconeri are hoping to come to an agreement on a loan deal until the season’s end with a €16 million option to buy in the summer.
While Juve appear to be in pole position for Nainggolan, they will face competition from Inter for the Cagliari midfielder’s signature. As part of Erick Thohir’s push to make his new club more marketable in his native Indonesia, he sees Nainggolan as the perfect addition given his own Indonesian heritage.
The arrival of the former Piacenza man would offset the likely exit of Fredy Guarin. The Colombian has been the subject of much speculation regarding a move away from Appiano Gentile, with England the most probable destination at this point.
Guarin confirmed on Sunday that his agent has been in talks with Chelsea, telling reporters: “I cannot deny there is something, I haven’t spoken with [Jose] Mourinho but my agent did.”
There has also been interest from Manchester United, and Inter would be unlikely to put a block on a move given Thohir’s intention to make the club as self-sustaining as possible during his regime at San Siro.
Milan are set for a bumper January in one way or another, with two arrivals already confirmed and plenty more activity likely to take place ahead of a critical second half of the season at home and in Europe.
Adil Rami has already been enlisted and Keisuke Honda will also don the red and black, but the desperate position in which Milan find themselves domestically and the prospect of a tough Champions League campaign to come mean that the Rossoneri board are keen to add even more new faces.
In goal, Gabriel is likely to be added to the Champions League squad after missing out on European football in the group stages. Looking ahead to the longer term, the Diavolo are in hot pursuit of Cagliari goalkeeper Agazzi.
Just as happened to Federico Marchetti in Sardinia two years ago, the Rossoblu number one is likely to find himself at a loose end for the next six months unless he signs a new deal with the club. A pre-contract agreement with Milan would make that probability a near-certainty, but would at least line him up to be the Rossoneri‘s next permanent custodian.
With the Champions League in mind, Milan would also like to add to their midfield stocks, and they too have Nainggolan on their radar. However, they have plenty of back-up options, with Lazio’s Hernanes and Parma’s Marco Parolo among their potential additions.
Finally, in defence, Milan are on the lookout for full-back – preferably one who can play on both flanks. Goal confirmed on Monday that the Rossoneri had bid €500,000 for Torino terzino Danilo D’Ambrosio. The 25-year-old’s contract runs out at the end of the season and is expected to leave the Granata for a small fee in January.
|ROMA, NAPOLI & THE REST OF SERIE A
Milan may be lining up Agazzi, but Fiorentina are also showing interest as they look to solve their goalkeeping issues.
Having failed to come to an agreement over the signing of QPR’s Julio Cesar in the summer, the Viola decided to put faith in Neto for 2013-14. However, four months on they are set to make a concerted effort to take on a new No.1, and moves for Agazzi and Cesar are both possible.
Napoli boss Rafa Benitez will be looking to resolve his defensive issues by bringing in new resources, but there is concern over the age of two of his targets, Liverpool pair Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger. That could lead to further attention being given to Cesena’s 21-year-old star, Alberto Almici.
Further up the pitch, Porto midfielder Fernando is a serious target, while cash could well be recouped on the sale of Eduardo Vargas. The striker flattered to deceive in Italy, but – following a great spell with Universidad de Chile – has enhanced his reputation in South America even further with Gremio. The Brazilian giants are potentially in a position to meet an asking price, which would see Napoli almost make their money back on the €12m signing made in 2012, though Santos and Sao Paulo are both seeking a loan deal for the Chile international.
Roma will look to strengthen their forward line during the winter window in a bid to make more of the side’s dominant possession statistics of the opening months of the campaign, with Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis among those that the Giallorossi have been watching of late. In the outgoing column, Gianluca Caprari may well be allowed to leave on loan after his agent Davide Lippi admitted that he has been in talks with the club regarding a temporary move.
Elsewhere, Maxi Lopez’s stay at Catania is set to end in January after he told Argentine reporters that he will look for other employment in the New Year. “My spell at Catania is closed,” confirmed the ex-Barcelona and Milan striker, “but I’m not thinking of returning to Argentina. I want to keep playing in Europe.”
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