Barcelona Transfer News: Napoli Reportedly Consider Gerard Deulofeu Loan

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2017

FC Barcelona's Spanish forward Gerard Deulofeu speaks during a press conference on October 30, 2017 at the Karaiskaki stadium, in Athens, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group D football match between Olympiacos and FC Barcelona. / AFP PHOTO / Angelos Tzortzinis        (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Napoli are reportedly considering approaching Barcelona about a loan deal for winger Gerard Deulofeu during the January transfer window, according to Rai Sport (h/t Football Italia), with the reports indicating the player would be amenable to the move.

Playing time has been an issue for Deulofeu at Barca. The 23-year-old has made just five starts in La Liga this season but does have a goal and an assist to his credit.

A sign of Deulofeu's diminished status came from his overlooking for the Blaugrana's 2-0 win over Sporting CP in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. With Barca already qualified, the game was an opportunity for fringe players to start, per Sport.

For his part, manager Ernesto Valverde said in November he is not concerned Deulofeu is finding things tough, per Goal's Ryan Benson.

Valverde hasn't been critical of Deulofeu's performances.
Valverde hasn't been critical of Deulofeu's performances.JOSEP LAGO/Getty Images

Valverde's bravado aside, it's surprising Deulofeu is struggling to make an impression. A graduate of Barcelona's famed academy, La Masia, he is a gifted winger who combines pace with trickery, flair and a keen eye for goal when at his best.

Consistency has eluded the attacker, though. He couldn't become a regular with Premier League side Everton, and loan spells with Sevilla and AC Milan yielded mixed results.

Part of his problem during his return to Barca has been Valverde ditching the familiar 4-3-3 formation to play two strikers at different times. By contrast, Napoli play a system more favourable to wingers, with both Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne effective creatively and in front of goal.

Deulofeu has struggled to start matches for his boyhood club.
Deulofeu has struggled to start matches for his boyhood club.Power Sport Images/Getty Images

It's questionable whether Barca can afford to sanction a winter exit for a player who offers depth for their forward line. Cover up top has been in short supply while summer signing Ousmane Dembele has been injured.

Paco Alcacer offers another option as a centre-forward, but Deulofeu's ability to play on both flanks could be useful as Valverde's squad competes for three trophies.