Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi has spoken out over the rumours surrounding former Gunner Ismael Bennacer and the transfer links to Napoli.
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 he 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.”
This is all relevant to Arsenal because the club were smart enough to put clauses in Bennacer’s contract for this kind of situation. The Gunners have the option to match any offer Empoli accept for the player, and if they turn that chance down, they’ll still receive 30% of the sales proceeds.
Some reports suggest Arsenal have already turned down the chance to match Napoli’s €12m offer for a summer move, meaning they’d pick up €3.6m if they deal goes through.
Would Bennacer return to Arsenal?
Bennacer has always been very complimentary about his time in North London, insisting he only left to have the chance to play more.
“I only have positive things to say about my time at Arsenal,” he said in 2017. “I was able to continue my development at a very structured club. It allowed me to have a professional formation and I needed that step. I regret nothing from my time there. I learned a lot. I just knew I needed to leave as I didn’t have my spot in the first-team.”
The youngster even suggested later that he might still go back, saying: “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.”
Why do the top clubs want him now?
Bennacer has really come on in leaps and bounds in the last season and a half. WhoScored‘s statistical analysis of his abilities paints an impressive picture, with dribbling, aerial duels, through balls, concentration, tackling and ball interception all listed as his strengths. They add that he likes to play long balls and shoot from distance.
Corsi compared Bennacer to Arsenal’s summer signing Lucas Torreira, saying: “I think he looks like Torreira, the former Sampdoria player, only more technical.
“He’s a central midfielder who can play both 3 and 2. He’s very dynamic, he’s not so tall, but he’s as tall as Allan, he’s as dynamic as Allan, he’s skilled with his feet and he’s mastering the role. From a defensive point of view, he never gives in. Usually, a player of this quality is not aggressive.”
We’ll see if Arsenal change their minds about bringing the player back to the Emirates Stadium. Assuming they don’t, they could well benefit from a bidding war for the midfielder this summer.