Simone Verdi’s future has been under constant speculation for the last couple of months. Because of his dominant displays for Bologna bigger clubs have taken an interest in him, and no wonder. Bologna are currently 12th in the standings, and Verdi has got six goals and five assists to his name. To achieve these numbers for a mid-table team is quite remarkable, and that is why clubs like Inter, Roma and Napoli have been rumoured to be interested in him.
This interest culminated in Napoli submitting a bid for him last week. At the time of the bid Serie A was on a short winter break and Verdi was therefore on holiday. Bologna accepted the bid as it matched their value of the former Milan player, and all was set for Verdi to join Napoli. The attacker asked for some time to think about the offer, and after a week, he politely declined.
For a player to decline a big pay rise, but also the chance to take part in a club’s challenge for the league title is almost unprecedented in modern football. If Verdi had chosen to accept Napoli’s offer, they would have undoubtedly given him more money than what Bologna can afford, but the money was not the most lucrative aspect of the deal. At the moment, Napoli are first in the table one point ahead of Juventus. This could be the first time in seven seasons where we see a different team than Juventus win the Scudetto, and Verdi could therefore have been part of something special.
Verdi gives Napoli a firm “no”
After the attacker had given his “no” to Napoli, Bologna published an interview with him where he explained why he chose as he did. He emphasized his commitment to Bologna in June, when he signed a new, long-term contract. He then went on to praise his teammates, the coach, and the fans. What was most interesting about his comments was that he wanted to continue his development. Verdi arrived in Bologna in the summer of 2016 from AC Milan, as the Serie A giants had lost believe in him. His first season at the club showed great promise, but it was not until this season that he truly started to dominate.
His ability to go past his marker and his close-control with both feet are second to none at Bologna, while his free-kick abilities are second to none in Serie A. Earlier in the season he scored two free-kicks in one game, one with each foot. What makes this season different from last is not just his goals and assists, but also that he stands out as one of the leaders in his team. He takes responsibility in every game, and when his team is struggling he still manages to make things happen.
His development might well have stopped had he chosen to make the move to Naples. It is no secret that Maurizio Sarri is not a coach prone to rotate his team. Dries Mertens has started 19 out of twenty games this season, José Callejón has started all twenty, as has Marek Hamsik, while Lorenzo Insigne has started 18 games. These are the players that Verdi would have competed against for a place in the line-up, and given Sarri’s track record, Verdi would most likely only have started the odd Europa League game barring any injuries to the players previously mentioned. This would undoubtedly have been on Verdi’s mind when he decided to decline the offer. At Bologna, Verdi is the main man and the first name on the team sheet, while at Napoli he would have blended in among a lot of good players, and probably struggled to get time on the field in the league.
Money isn’t everything, even in football
Verdi’s decision to snub Napoli to continue his stint at Bologna is not solely a decision based on playing time. In fact, it is also a decision based on loyalty to those who believed in him. At Bologna, Verdi has found the first real home of his career, and it shows on the pitch. He is still only 25 years old, but he has already been at seven clubs. That is quite remarkable for such a young player, and evidence that strengthens the argument that Verdi struggled to find a place to flourish before Bologna.
But the experience Verdi has gotten, moving from club to club, is perhaps what has made him loyal to Bologna. He has experienced negative periods at several clubs, and when he finally found a place where he could thrive, it was not something that he could easily throw away. The loyalty he showed for Bologna by declining Napoli’s offer is a manifestation of his journeyman career. Verdi knows all too well that it is difficult to find a home where one can prosper. This loyalty is rare to find in modern football, but a welcomed one, in a time where players like Alexis Sanchez are demanding ridiculous amounts of money.
However, Verdi will not stay at Bologna for the remainder of his career. He has stated himself that a January move was out of the question, but that he’ll consider things again in the summer. If he continues to dominate for his team in the second half of this campaign bigger clubs will come for him again in the next transfer window, and he will most likely leave. His decision to snub Napoli seems like the right one, as he can continue to develop at Bologna in familiar surroundings, while at Napoli he would most likely have struggled to make an impact because of Sarri’s lack of rotation. Verdi’s decision proves that football can still bring stories of romance, now it’s up to the player to continue to thrive at his first true football home.