Napoli are still waiting for Arsenal’s approval so they can sign Ismael Bennacer from Empoli.
At the tail-end of the January transfer window it was reported that Arsenal had turned down the chance to re-sign their former youngster and, instead, would pick up 30% of his sell-on fee.
But it seems like the club have not yet made a decision one way or the other according to a report from Bennacer’s home country of Algeria.
Bennacer spent two years with the Arsenal academy from 2015 to 2017, before leaving to join Serie B club Empoli. Since then, his new club have been promoted to the top tier of Italian football, and the midfielder has really impressed in the country.
As a result, a number of top clubs are now trying to sign him.
Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi confirmed the rumoured interest from Napoli, but added he believes Bennacer can play in plenty of top Italian teams.
“We say that there is an interest on the part of Napoli and we are happy that an important team is interested in him,” Corsi said (via CalcioNapoli1926). “I think he can play in Naples, in Rome, and Inter. He has great dynamism, great feet, and a great personality.
“Cristiano (Giuntoli, Napoli sporting director) and (Carlo) Ancelotti showed appreciation even when we played in Naples. It is a guarantee, he is destined to leave Empoli at the end of the championship.
“From Rome, they looked to us (for a January signing), but they knew we would not have sold him now.”
Speaking last January, Bennacer revealed that his Empoli contract contained a clause that would allow Arsenal to re-sign him if they wished.
“According to Arsène Wenger, there were many players in midfield at the club. I know I could have claimed a place, even if it’s difficult,” the youngster told Foot Mercato in 2018.
“But after that, I did not want to take chances and waste more time. I wanted to play and consistently. Who knows, maybe one day I will go back to Arsenal through the front door.
“There are several clauses in my contract. So there is a possibility that I will go back to Arsenal. Everything will depend on my evolution.”
Bennacer only ever made one League Cup appearance for Arsenal’s first team and that was during the 3-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in November 2015. The Frenchman had only just joined from Arles, so it wasn’t exactly the best start to his Arsenal career.
He did go on to make 24 appearances for the u23s and impressed with 16 Ligue 2 performances while on loan at Tours in 2017. He scored once and provided two assists while there.
Since moving to Empoli, Bennacer has featured 60 times for the Serie B side, scoring two and assisting five from a defensive midfield position.
It is highly unlikely Arsenal will end up bringing him back to the Emirates although what the hold up is in giving Napoli the go-ahead is not clear.
Arsenal should end up pocketing approximately another £3.6m for a player they originally sold for £900k.