The Serie A club are so intent on signing the Real Madrid midfielder that they are considering bringing back the retired number 10 worn by the Argentina great.
It’s a move that could well divide opinion among the famously passionate Napoli support, but the Serie A side are so eager to entice James Rodríguez to the San Paolo that they are considering bringing Diego Maradona’s number 10 shirt out of retirement and handing it to the Colombian playmaker.
Maradona is a deity among Napoli supporters and his shirt number was taken out of commission in 2000 in homage to the Cosmic Barrel, who led I Partenopei to their only two Serie A titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90.
Napoli were stung when former coach Maurizio Sarri joined arch-rivals Juventus and Aurelio De Laurentiis, who knows a thing or two about stage management, is planning on creating a new idol out of the Colombia midfielder with a Maradona-esque presentation in the San Paolo planned.
Madrid want €50m for James, Napoli want a loan
The sticking point, as it has been this summer with all of their players, is Real Madrid’s stance. Florentino Pérez wants a straight sale worth 50 million euros but De Laurentiis would prefer an initial loan deal for a fee of 10 million with a purchase option (which could be made obligatory to appease Pérez) of 30 million next summer.
The excellent relationship between the two clubs, who have done plenty of business in the past, and the fact that Zinedine Zidane has no place for the Colombia midfielder, should smooth the transfer through one way or the other but the award of Maradona’s legendary number 10 is a bold move from the Napoli chief.
James is currently at the Copa América where Colombia are ticking over very nicely and could arrive in Naples with a major international honour in his luggage. That would do his standing with the fans no harm at all and there is little doubt that the midfielder would add some star quality to a side that has consistently been adding talent to its ranks in recent seasons but lacks a global superstar. Napoli’s record signing remains Gonzalo Higuaín, who was bought from Madrid for 37 million euros in 2013.