Real Madrid are refusing to let playmaker James Rodriguez leave the club on loan this season, instead holding out for a permanent deal amid interest from Napoli.
It was learnt that Madrid are keen to get Colombia international James off their payroll this summer as they aim to raise funds for more signings after a busy start to the transfer window.
Napoli have emerged as the club to have shown the most interest in the 27-year-old, though it is understood that reports from Italy that a deal has already been reached are wide of the mark.
James spent the previous two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, scoring 15 goals and laying on 20 assists in 67 appearances for the Bundesliga winners, but the Bavarians decided not to exercise the option to sign him permanently for €42 million (£37m/$47m).
Carlo Ancelotti was the manager who brought James to the Allianz Arena before he was sacked by Bayern in September 2017 and, having now moved onto Napoli, the Italian coach wants to reunite with a player whom he also coached during his time at Santiago Bernabeu.
“James Rodriguez is Ancelotti’s wish,” Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis told Radio Kiss Kiss on Wednesday. “I don’t know if we need him 100 per cent, but his talent isn’t in doubt.
“I must help my coach. He wants James and I won’t bat an eyelid, even if he’s very expensive.”
James’ current contract at Madrid runs until the summer of 2021, and they are reluctant to let it enter its final 12 months and face selling the player for less than his market value.
As such they will not allow him to be loaned out this season, even if the deal includes the option to buy as they want to avoid another situation as occurred at Bayern this summer.
They also believe that his performances at this summer’s Copa America for Colombia could increase his value and as such are keen to sell at the highest possible price tag.
The 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner is one of a number of Madrid first-team players whom the club are looking to move on in the coming weeks.
As many as 13 players are up for sale, with the hope that the bulk of them will be sold before the squad return for pre-season on July 9.
Among them are Gareth Bale, Isco, Keylor Navas and Mateo Kovacic who, along with James, have been deemed surplus to requirements at Santiago Bernabeu.
That follows an aggressive transfer window thus far from the 13-time European champions, with the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao and Rodrygo costing around €300m (£267m/$340m).
Zinedine Zidane is keen to bolster his squad further before the start of the season, with Paul Pogba emerging as the club’s primary midfield target over Christian Eriksen.
They have also not given up on tempting Neymar to the club from Paris Saint-Germain, but must sell first so as to finance either deal.