MILAN (Reuters) – The Serie A title race, one of the most exciting and open for years, re-starts on Tuesday following the Christmas break, yet its return has been overshadowed by the opening of the transfer window.
Italian media is awash with a bewildering quantity of rumours and chitchat while the matches, including Tuesday’s derby between crisis-hit neighbours Genoa and Sampdoria, have been almost completely overlooked.
Only four points separate leaders Inter Milan from fifth-placed AS Roma, with Fiorentina, Napoli and champions Juventus sandwiched in between.
Roberto Mancini’s Inter, one point clear of Napoli and Fiorentina, have a potentially troublesome visit to Empoli on Wednesday (1700 GMT).
Fiorentina travel to Palermo (1400) while Napoli, with only two defeats this season in all competitions, are at home to Torino (1945).
Paris St Germain striker Ezequiel Lavezzi topped the rumour mill on Monday amid reports that the Argentine, who enjoyed five impressive seasons with Napoli, wanted to return to Serie A.
Other reports suggested that AS Roma, who recently loaned forward Juan Iturbe to English Premier League Bournemouth, were chasing Genoa forward Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy, currently on loan on at Monaco from AC Milan.
Napoli fans were eagerly awaiting a big new signing after president Aurelio Di Laurentiis, a prominent Italian film producer, promised that one was on the way to reward them for going to see his latest release.
“I thank all the Naples fans who gave me the present of going to see the film ‘Natale with the boss (Christmas with the boss)’,” he said in an radio interview. “My promise to reward them with an important player will be maintained.”
Meanwhile, Inter president Erick Thohir suggested his club were happy with their squad.
“No player wants to stay on the bench and we already have a squad with 25 to 28 players and that’s a lot because we are only involved in Serie A and the Coppa Italia,” he said.
But with Italian clubs struggling to compete financially with their Spanish, German and English counterparts, the talk nowadays is almost as much about who will leave.
Juventus play maker Paul Pogba is the subject of perpetual speculation about a move to one of Europe’s top clubs. His team mate Paulo Dybala and Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain are the two other big pulls.
Juve, however, have insisted that Dybala, who has only been at the club for six months, is not going anywhere.
“We do not want to sell him neither this season nor in the following ones as we have invested a considerable sum on him,” said chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.
“Dybala is a player who is growing and who has not yet shown his full potential.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Zurich, editing by Ed Osmond)