As one of the most imperious defenders in the Italian game, Nikola Maksimovic has won many fans over the years. The Serbian stopper has slowly but surely evolved into a defender of genuine top class repute. His performances for Napoli have been inconsistent, but his form since a return from a loan in Russia via Spartak Moscow has been mostly sublime. However, the Naples outfit face the likely event of missing out on a transfer fee for the defender – something that has attracted glances from other clubs.
Chief among those intrigued in landing the Serb are Internazionale and Lazio. They are both keen to bring in a UEFA Champions League quality defender who can help to dominate in the air. The move for Maksimovic would see the veteran arrived at another club in Italy, perhaps one with more long-term ambitions than Napoli. The club are likely in the process of changing coach again in the summer. Given his inconsistent playing time under various coaches, Maksimovic might decide that it is now or never for a move.
The team who is believed to be closest to a deal is Lazio. The Roman outfit have every chance of making the UEFA Champions League. They could also offer the promise of regular, consistent gametime as part of their squad. Inter are stacked at central defence, with the likes of Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni providing excellent defence at the back. The Serbian, then, would likely be competing with the likes of Stefen de Vrij for a place in the team – an unenviable task for almost any defender in the world.
What happens next for Napoli?
The loss of a player who could be easily worth north of €30m is obviously a major loss. It could have a major hit on their ability to spend in the summer, as well as their ability to track top class talent once again. It might also have a lasting impact on their ability to bring in a proper top name coach, too, with the club likely to find it hard to find a top-bracket coach willing to work with restrictions
Failure to make the Champions League, as well as the loss of a key asset like Maksimovic, would simply make the job of rebuilding much harder. Having struggled to build the kind of team hoped for after Maurizio Sarri moved on, the loss of a key asset like Maksimovic would be another showcase of how things have gone wrong in Naples.
Although Gennaro Gattuso has done a surprisingly fine job since taking over as Napoli manager, there is talk he will leave in the summer for Fiorentina. This might leave Napoli having to rebuild the defence, hire a new coach, and add some new attacking talent from the one budget.
For Maksimovic, though, the time has arguably never been better to try and land a contract with a team who is genuine about competing for the Serie A title.