Napoli boss Benitez ready to buy Glen Johnson and James Milner
Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, now coaching Italian outfit Napoli, is said to want to return to his old club to sign right back Glen Johnson, and Manchester City midfield James Milner.
Etihad-owned defender Micah Richards recently switched to Serie A, albeit on loan to Fiorentina, and there have been calls for more English players to move abroad in an effort by the FA to encourage homegrown players to learn different sides of the game, and develop technically.
Napoli, who are 14/1 chances to win Europa League, will be able to offer both players the first team football that they crave.
Johnson, who is out of contract next summer, recently admitted that talks regarding a new deal with the Reds had gone “very quiet”, which may have something to do the club’s capture of Atletico Madrid’s 20-year-old Spain Under-21 international Javi Manquillo on loan, with the likelihood that manager Brendan Rodgers may opt to buy him in the summer.
Furthermore, the Merseyside outfit, who are 11/10 for a top four Premier League finish, also have Jon Flanagan, who broke onto the scene and impressed last term, so they would not be short if they decided to cash in on Johnson in January.
Milner, meanwhile, has never been anything more than a squad player at City under Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini. However, usefully for the reigning Premier League champions, he helps to make up their quota of English personnel requisite for the Champions League.
Benitez will no doubt find a role for the 28-year-old, who helped bring the title to the Etihad last season, to win his second English top-flight medal in three seasons.
The versatility Milner offers has been one of his best traits, often utilised by England. Seen as ‘Mr Reliable’, he never lets the team down, works hard, offers boundless energy and can keep hold of the ball.
Battling for a place in the starting XI with David Silva, Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, and Fernando Reges may be a task Milner thinks is beyond him. If offered the chance to play under Benitez in January, it could be an opportunity he will think long and hard about.
While Benitez is clearly ready to pounce for English stars, new Schalke boss Roberto Di Matteo, who coached both Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, could return for English players in January to enhance his new squad. They are 100/1 to win the Bundesliga this season.