Contract complications could see five Napoli players leave: What are the problems?

Things are going well at Napoli right now but there is work to do behind the scenes if the Azzurri are going to keep hold of some of their most important players.

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Napoli players, including Giovanni Simeone, celebrate. (@en_sscnapoli)

Napoli fans are on cloud nine this season, and rightly so. With their side sitting 15 points clear at the top of Serie A, few would bet against the runaway leaders claiming the Scudetto in June.

Whilst many Neapolitans will already be planning the end-of-season parties, those with a mindful eye for the future might be slightly more reluctant in their early celebrations.

There are a handful of important players that could have futures away from the club if work is not done quickly.

Piotr Zielinski in action for Napoli against AS Roma. [@sscnapoli]

Which Napoli players’ contracts are running out?

Whilst none of the biggest Partenopei stars will be out of contract this summer, there is still fairly urgent business to be done.

According to Il Mattino (via Calciomercato.com), first-choice goalkeeper Alex Meret, as well as key outfield players Amir Rrahmani, Piotr Zielinski and Hirving Lozano are all under contract until June 2024, but are yet to extend their deals. Being in their prime playing years, these players are all assets that Napoli would not want to see leave the club for free when their contracts are up.

Sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli will of course be working with the club to tie these players down to a new deal, given their performances this season. But when players start bringing their club success, they are often encouraged by their agents to demand a bigger share of the winnings, and this can lead to contract negotiations stalling.

Napoli operate under a relatively fixed wage structure and their wage bill is far lower than those of their biggest rivals. Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and AS Roma all pay their players more each week.

Victor Osimhen celebates scoring for Napoli away at Sassuolo. (@sscnapoli)

Yet, in an attempt to hold on to star striker Victor Osimhen, who is the subject of interest from some of Europe’s biggest teams, the club is reportedly considering offering the Nigerian forward an exceptional contract. According to RAI journalist Ciro Venerato, the league’s top scorer could potentially earn a salary upwards of €7 million if he chooses to stay in Naples. 

But it’s difficult to envisage all of Osimhen, Meret, Rrahmani, Zielinski and Lozano playing in blue next season under improved contracts. Giuntoli may be forced to cash in on some of them while he can this summer.

Napoli’s ability to rebuild

Fans are understandably worried. No one wants to see their best players leave. But Napoli are no strangers to selling, and they’ve been willing to let their best players leave in the past, often for a profit.

Over the last few seasons, Giuntoli and his team have allowed fan favourites such as Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly and Fabian Ruiz to leave the club, replacing them with previously unknown players like Kim Min-jae and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

Given the rapid success that this transfer strategy has already brought the club, perhaps the Napoli faithful are best off accepting some of their stars’ inevitable departures and having faith in the club to replace them.

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