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Napoli keep tabs on Sagna as Arsenal struggle to reach contract breakthrough

Napoli keep tabs on Sagna as Arsenal struggle to reach contract breakthrough

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The Gunners still want to extend the right-back's contract and talks are ongoing, but the Serie A club are monitoring his situation as they line up four potential targets

EXCLUSIVE
By Marco Giordano

Napoli are monitoring Bacary Sagna's contract situation with the hope of tempting the right-back away from Arsenal, Goal understands.

The Partenopei are keen to strengthen their squad with big names in the summer and are also considering Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Alex and Barcelona's versatile midfielder Javier Mascherano, who has regularly played in defence at Camp Nou.

Sagna, one of the Premier League's stand-out full-backs this season, is free to discuss pre-contract agreements with other clubs but the Gunners still hope to reach a deal to extend his stay beyond the summer and the Frenchman remains happy to talk.

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There has so far been no breakthrough in talks, however, and Napoli are keen to offer the full-back, who will turn 31 on February 14, the chance to be first choice at a major club in European competition.

The Serie A side would not be able to offer as high a basic wage as the Gunners, but would include several bonuses in any agreement as they look to take advantage of Sagna's experience and versatility, having filled in at centre-back for the north Londoners at times in recent months.

Meanwhile, coach Rafa Benitez is pursuing Mascherano - a former player of his at Liverpool. The Argentina international holds an Italian passport and is expected to be given sterner competition for places by a new defensive signing at Camp Nou in the summer.

The ex-West Ham man could be tempted by the chance to return to his original midfield position rather than the centre-back role that he has occupied for Barcelona but the transfer fee is likely to be a major obstacle. The Catalans are set to demand €20 million should Mascherano enjoy a good World Cup this summer.

Alex, although not in possession of a European passport, which means he would occupy one of the club's two permitted places for non-European Union signings, is yet to agree an extension to his PSG contract, which expires in 2015. The Brazilian is expected to evaluate his options at the end of the season.

Napoli are also continuing their efforts to sign Maxime Gonalons from Lyon. The midfielder looked set to move to the San Paolo in January after a deal was agreed, only for the French club's president, Jean-Michel Aulas, to intervene.

Despite fury from Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who hit out at Aulas, Gonalons is still expected to arrive in the summer after the two clubs worked behind the scenes to maintain good relations and keep the deal alive.

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