Tiémoué Bakayoko’s season has had a very familiar pattern to it. As at Chelsea, then at Milan, now at Napoli. A slow start — he didn’t find a team until a month into the already delayed season — followed by a strong middle (he started 14 of 16 Serie A matches at one point), followed by a drop in form (he’s started just 3 of the last 9 league games).
His future prospects of being able to settle down at any given team have followed a similar pattern. Whereas a few months ago it looked like Napoli would be foolish not to work out some sort of deal with Chelsea (no official buy-option in this loan), these days the future looks much more certain, both for the player and his current head coach, with whom he’s had a strong working relationship, going back to their time together at Milan.
But Bakayoko’s agent is quick to play down any over-dependency on Gennaro Gattuso, claiming that his client, who’s also his brother, has every chance of still staying in Naples after the season.
“Will he stay in Naples only if Gattuso stays? His fate is not tied to that of the coach. There is a strong relationship with the manager but when there are discussions with the club to stay at Napoli (if there are) then we’ll see.
“Today the focus is to see how the season will end and then it will be evaluated. For now, there are no appointments or discussions with the club. His stay at Napoli, however, will not be linked to Gattuso.
“Would he like to stay at Napoli? He is happy here, it’s a great club with a great history. He has not yet been able to fully experience the stadium and perhaps even the city. He is happy with this experience and is happy here.”
Bakayoko will have one more year left on his Chelsea contract, which would make the previous mooted €18m potential transfer a fairly decent deal — not great, but the best we could probably do under the circumstances. But Bakayoko’s dip in form, along with Napoli’s overall downward trend this season (they dropped out of the top four at the turn of the year, and haven’t been able to get back up into it), has put that deal into quite a bit of doubt.
The Partenopei have shown some signs of life lately, winning four of five to close within two points of fourth place Juventus (!), but with Maurizio Sarri potentially waiting in the wings to return, should Gattuso get the sack as expected, Bakayoko might have to once again return to the drawing board as far as his football career’s concerned.