Napoli have been handed a boost in their chase of Real Madrid’s unwanted man James Rodriguez.
The Colombian midfielder has been left in limbo in the Spanish capital after Bayern Munich refused to convert last season’s loan deal to a permanent one.
Atletico Madrid and Napoli were thought to have been tussling for his signature, but it appears that the Spanish side have pulled out from the race after president Enrique Cerezo declared the squad is already ‘competitive’.
In an interview that Cerezo gave to Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli, he stressed that the signings of Portugal teenager Joao Felix and Spain forward Alvaro Morata has made up for losing Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona.
He said: “James? Our team is strong this way and we believe we are already as competitive as we are with all competitions. The rose is closed. In football you never know what will happen tomorrow. Today I can only say that we are strong this way and that the rose is already made.”
Napoli are now front-runners to land the player but are yet to agree terms with Madrid.
Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Junior Firpo for €25 million from Real Betis – bringing their total spend for the summer up to more than €250m.
Firpo, 22, earned rave reviews for both his solidity in defence and willingness in attack from left-back in what his first full campaign in Betis’ senior team in 2018/19.
Barca had clearly seen enough, securing a deal for a player who is expected to keep a 30-year-old Jordi Alba honest and turn into his successor.
Firpo joins Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Neto through the door at Barca this summer, as they tool up for a Champions League push and a first European trophy for five years.
Despite this outlay, the Catalans are rumoured to still be in the hunt for Neymar, whose frosty relationship with PSG has shown no sign of abating.
Barcelona open their La Liga campaign up at Athletic Bilbao on Friday August 16.
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season?
We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why, or why not.
Today’s edition features the future of a Real Madrid star unwanted by Zinedine Zidane, Ajax possibly being raided for another of their young stars and a move away from Monaco for Radamel Falcao.
Real Madrid -> £70m -> Manchester City
The Premier League transfer window is closing soon but champions City – who were apparently targeting him earlier in the summer – are weighing up a late move for the Madrid misfit, according to the Express.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: Isco clearly isn’t wanted by Zinedine Zidane and despite a fairly drastic dip in form, favour and attitude over the last two seasons, there is still a talented player in there somewhere. At 27 he is entering his prime and a move away from the Spanish capital should reinvigorate him.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Stories first surfaced of City’s interest in the Spanish schemer at the start of the summer, so why would they be keen now all of a sudden, especially with little time left to get a deal over the line?
He is seen as a successor to compatriot David Silva, but the 33-year-old is arguably in better shape and form, and City would surely be unwilling to meet Real’s valuation of their player.
Transfer predictor: 3/10
Ajax -> £64m -> Manchester United
United are eyeing a swoop for Ajax sensation Neres in a £46million deal, as their transfer spree continues, claim the Sun.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: The latest diamond unearthed by Ajax, Neres consolidated his position as one of Europe’s rising stars with a stellar 2018/19 campaign to back up a breakthrough year at the Dutch giants the previous campaign.
United still require a right winger and, at only 22, Neres fits the bill for the type of young, hungry player United are trying to attract. Even at the asking price, he would be a cheaper option than Paulo Dybala.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Ajax reportedly rejected a £46m bid from United for the Brazilian star and will not accept anything less than £64m. The Red Devils might deem that too steep.
Having already lost Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong this summer, not to mention Donny van de Beek being heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, Ajax will be loathe to lose another star and will hope to hold on to Neres for at least another year.
Transfer predictor: 5/10
Monaco -> €9m -> Sampdoria
Falcao has admitted he is “studying” offers to move away from Monaco, with Goal claiming he could be on his way to Italy.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: With the club having declined to offer the 33-year-old Colombian an extension to his current contract, which expires next year, they may hope to offload Falcao for a small fee this summer.
And the player himself seems keen to leave France, saying: “I have to think about my future, my family. I am studying the offers. These are good opportunities for my career.”
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: The club signed winger Gelson Martins permanently but have not added another forward with the quality to be a direct replacement for their aging veteran, so they won’t want to let him leave – especially with the Ligue 1 season getting under way against Lyon next Friday.
A number of other clubs are also interested, including Galatasaray, Valencia and even Falcao’s former side, Atletico Madrid.
Transfer predictor: 6/10