Enter stage left, Laurent Blanc. The Frenchman has just joined Paris Saint-Germain, but he's already made Edinson Cavani his number one target according to reports.
--LAST UPDATE TUES JULY 4 --
The general consensus here in Italy is still that Cavani would prefer a move to Real Madrid, and there are still rumours linking the Napoli forward to Manchester United, Manchester City and to Chelsea.
The Italian media had been suggesting that club president Aurelio De Laurentiis made a bold move to convince Cavani to stay in southern Italy, but new manager Rafa Benitez might favour fresh faces and Madrid look ready to swoop for the Serie A star.
Uruguay's Cavani is one of the hottest properties in world football right now, having been the spearhead to an impressive Napoli renaissance that's seen the southern Italian side challenge for the Serie A title for the first time since the days of Diego Maradona.
The influential front man looks set for a move away from the San Paolo this summer after scoring 98 goals in 134 appearances in all competitions for the Partenopei. I've written in the past about Cavani's worth to his eager suitors, but now as the summer's silly season heats up this page will track all the latest news and rumours surrounding the 26-year-old.
The Guardian is among several outlets reporting that Paris Saint-Germain have tabelled a bid for Cavani's services.
Securing the Uruguayan's signature ahead of the likes of Real Madrid—who poached PSG's coach, Carlo Ancellotti—and Manchester United would go a long way to prove that Les Parisiens are now among football's heavyweights.
The bid is thought to be several million below the €63 million release clause in the striker's contract, but it might be close enough to tempt Napoli to part with their prize asset.
Aurelio De Laurentiis is known for outlandish, controversial and sometimes tongue-in-cheek statements.
Who could forget him warning his want-away players, wooed by the EPL, that English women didn't wash their genitalia (preserved for posterity here by the Telegraph), or the time he called Lionel Messi a cretin (via goal.com)?
Usually, it's others who feel the sting of the Italian's tongue but this time he's ended up hurting no one but himself.
De Laurentiis was giving an interview to Radio Rai, the state broadcaster in Italy, when he let slip that Cavani's sky-high release clause would expire on August 10 (as reported by James Dickenson in the Express, here).
The Daily Mail highlights another aspect of the interview that could cause problems and suggests that their relationship might be starting to suffer under the strain of this protracted transfer saga.
Quoting the interview with Radio Rai:
Will I let Cavani go before August 10? I trust in the man, then if he doesn't want to it'll be a joke on me. However, I believe he is a real man and will therefore remain at Napoli. If he does decide to go, it will in any case be after the Confederations Cup. We will know everything by July 20. If not, I'll smack him!
Jones then goes on to include Cavani's reply:
Those statements were strong and I didn't really like them very much. Now I want to speak with the president face-to-face, as I have done on numerous occasions in the past.
Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall during that conversation?
The Mirror is reporting that the United board is ready to back their new manager to the tune of £50 million so that he might secure Cavani's services for the upcoming season.
But it's not just the Mirror that thinks David Moyes is mad for Cavani. The Daily Mail's Simon Jones is also suggesting that the Scot will pursue the Napoli front man, as doubts over Wayne Rooney's future remain.
According to reports, Chelsea had agreed terms with the Italian club, only to see their EPL rivals enter the race with a matching bid.
Jones sites an announcement on a local Naples radio station, Radio Marte, which claimed that Rafa Benitez and the club had given the move the green light.
Most commentators now agree that Cavani is a Real Madrid player, assuming the Spaniards can meet Napoli's asking price.
That's probably because they've been seeing the same quotes as the rest of us, from a recent chat Cavani's father had with the Spanish TV show, Futboleros (here in English via the Irish Independent). Luiz Cavani told the interviewer:
His intention is to play for Madrid. He is excited about it and is very willing to see it through. He has told the family in private that he wants to join Real Madrid but if he declares it publicly it will annoy Napoli.
There has been contact with Real Madrid's lawyers and now we are waiting for the two clubs to meet. I hope it happens and that talks take place as soon as possible. Who wouldn't want to play for Real Madrid?
The legendary Brazilian striker Careca, who along with Diego Maradona and Bruno Giordano formed one of the greatest attacks of all time while at Napoli in the late 1980s, has spoken out about the club's current leading man.
Careca was speaking to Italy's Corriere dello Sport, which asked him to comment on the current Confederations Cup that's taking place in his homeland.
The striker, who made over 60 appearances for the Selecao, told the paper (here in English, via Yahoo):
From all the attackers at the Confederations Cup I like Cavani the most, He has shown over the past three years that he can score all kinds of goals. He is fast, strong, a real beast. It's quite simple for Napoli, they should not let Cavani go. The team would lose 70 percent of its strength if he were to leave. He scores too many goals and is always decisive.
According to the Guardian (here) Spanish giants Real Madrid are working hard to sign Cavani. The paper reports that Madrid had been keen to tie up the deal last month, but were delayed as they finalised the details of Jose Mourinho's departure.
Madrid's president, Florentino Perez, is said to be extremely keen on a move for Cavani, and why wouldn't he be? The Uruguayan has almost matched La Liga's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts in recent seasons—doing so in a much more defensively solid league.
Cavani's family is among the many to have touted this move in the past, telling the press that the striker is a Real fan and eager to play for at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Speaking to Marca TV (via ESPN.co.uk), Luis Cavani, the striker's father, admitted that there had been talks between Napoli and Real:
Napoli has rejected offers from many teams. But I think that they'd sell him for an offer of €60m. There is a 50% possibility he will sign for Real Madrid, but the negotiation with Napoli is difficult.
The forward's brother recently added to the speculation while speaking to Naples radio station Kiss Kiss (from Marca), saying that Spain would be best for Edinson and that money was not the sole concern.
Italy's Corriere dello Sport also claimed that Carlo Ancelotti has made Cavani's signatures one of his demands ahead of signing on as the new boss in Madrid (here in Italian, from corrieredellosport.it), though the Italian's managerial future is still uncertain.
The paper quotes Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis as saying:
Chelsea are interested in Cavani and they will call me soon. I'm very happy that his brother has said that he will stay, but if he did decide to go to Chelsea we would take time out to think and replace him with people worthy of replacing him.
Another paper, the Daily Star, claims that Cavani is begging the club to allow the move, citing Italy's Il Mattino as their source.
Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge was always going to come with some high-profile signings, and this summer they don't get much more high-profile than Edinson Cavani.
The latest in the British press is that Chelsea are willing to offer Fernando Torres as a makeweight in the deal along with a substantial amount of cash, which they hope can entice Napoli to sell Serie A's hottest property.
Torres' time in SW6 has been a failure, overall, but if Benitez can get him back to the level he was at when the pair were at Anfield, it could be a very good deal indeed.
At least one newspaper is suggesting that despite the rumours (the Mirror here), Napoli and new boss Rafa Benitez are uninterested in a player-plus-cash deal and only the full whack of Cavani's release fee will do.
The Mirror claims that Mourinho and Chelsea have made a £49.3million bid for the forward after seeing their £25.5 million plus Torres suggestion dismissed.
It's a lot of money, but it's still several million short of the Italian club's asking price, and it's likely that it is only the first bid in what's sure to be a heated auction between Europe's elite.
At least one British paper thinks that Rafa Benitez is ready to replace Cavani in the Napoli line-up with none other than Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez.
The Metro is of the opinion (here) that Rafa has marked Gomez as the ideal replacement for the Uruguayan and on paper at least it looks like a shrewd move.
Gomez is said to be surplus to requirements in Bavaria, despite scoring 75 goals in 115 appearances for the European champions and being a regular in the German national team. The powerful forward was also a prolific scorer at VfB Stuttgart, and at just 27 still has plenty of miles left on the clock.
In an unlikely turn of events, it now looks possible that Napoli could hang on to their star player after all. Italian newspapers are reporting that Aurelio De Laurentiis, the owner of the club who is also an influential film producer, is willing to spend big to keep his man.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport (here in Italian), Napoli's new manager Rafa Benitez has expressly asked his employer to up his efforts to keep hold of the forward. The deal now on the table is for €7 million a season for five years, and Cavani has two weeks to respond.
The player himself now seems a little hesitant to move, and has just come out to say that he's "proud" to play for Napoli.
"I've dreamed of playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona since I was a baby," says the player according to Italy's Corriere dello Sport (here in Italian, via corrieredellosport.it), "But I'm proud to be here in Naples, and that's important."
Cavani continues to say that he's now focusing on his upcoming commitments to the Uruguayan national team and is ignoring the transfer talk. It still seems likely that he'll move, but not as certain as it had looked just a few short weeks ago. Napoli fans can dare to dream.
Italy's No.1 sports paper asserts De Laurentiis is open to the idea of a money-plus-player deal that would take Edin Dzeko to Naples.
Having himself been a big-money transfer sage not long ago, Dzeko probably isn't too happy to be discussed as a mere make-weight in Manchester City's move. But the big Bosnian could be a real sweetener for Napoli, who have been offered his services plus £35 million in cash in exchange for Cavani according to the Daily Mail's John Drayton.
Dzeko has 15 goals in 43 games for City this season, so the figures would suggest that he's nowhere near as prolific as Cavani and will still need help plugging the Uruguayan's goal deficit at the San Paolo.
That said, £35 million would allow Napoli's new manager to significantly strengthen the side elsewhere, and who knows, the new arrival could enjoy life in Southern Italy and become a goal machine. Cavani wasn't the devastating finisher he is today before moving to Naples, either.
The departure of Roberto Mancini is likely to spark upheaval in the squad as players move on and the new manager freshens things up, and Cavani's signature would make not just the perfect welcome gift for their new coach, but also serve as the EPL season's first warning shot.
The club's director of football, Txiki Begiristain, is said to be keen to get his business done early this summer, so Citizen fans should know soon what they can look forward to seeing in 2013-14.
With Rafael Benitez exiting after a successful but unpopular tenure at Stamford Bridge, attention in London is turning not only to who will next occupy the hottest hot seat in English football, but what kind of reinforcements billionaire owner Roman Abramovich intends to splash out on.
The Russian has had torrid luck with big-money strikers in the past, signing Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres only to see the once mighty forwards flounder in the Blues' front line.
The experience hasn't put Abramovich off, however, and according to Metro's Hannah Duncan he's lining up a huge offer and £145,000-a-week wages for Cavani after giving up on Atletico Madrid forward Radamel Falcao.
A team that only narrowly avoided relegation last term is not the likeliest of destinations for one of the world's most in-demand footballers, but that hasn't stopped them dreaming big.
The Black Cats' new director of football, Roberto De Fanti, hit the ground running on Wearside by immediately tabling a £50 million bid for Napoli's prize asset according to the Express' John Richardson.
De Fanti is understandably keen to build a competitive squad for his compatriot Paolo Di Canio at the Stadium of Light, but with Europe's biggest clubs all desperate to sign the striker, he might have to set his sights a little lower next time.
Of all Europe's richest clubs, Paris Saint-Germain have been the most persistently linked with Cavani. According to Metro's Massimo Marioni the French champions are happy to pay Napoli's €60 million asking price, on top of the striker's €8.5 million-a-year salary demands.
Cavani could join his old partner Ezequiel Lavezzi in the French capital, reigniting what was one of the most exciting partnerships in European football when the pair where at Napoli. Just how the Parisians would fit him into the starting lineup with Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another matter, but dealing with two of the game's most potent attackers is a problem most managers would relish.
The biggest obstacle to this move might not come from other clubs, but indirectly from the French government. President Francois Hollande has hit some set-backs with his proposed 75 percent tax on the country's super wealthy, but his commitment to the idea might scare Cavani and his advisors away.
Cavani has commented on the media frenzy surrounding his future, but only to say that the decision will be made by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis. The star striker is adamant that he feels good in Naples, citing the fact that the club has helped him mature.
The mercurial talent is back in his native Uruguay right now, reportedly trying to resolve the personal issues that have dogged him for the last year.
Speaking to Ovacion Digital, (here in English via sports.yahoo.com), Cavani said:
I'm in Uruguay at the moment to recharge my batteries for next season and I am only thinking about Napoli for now. If I were to leave the club we'd have to sit down with the president to discuss my valuation. I'm feeling well at Napoli, though. I have grown here and have matured a lot.
The club's contract with Cavani runs until June 2017, but it's unlikely they'll keep hold of their star striker despite the imminent arrival of a new coach.