Cagliari president Tomasso Guilini has revealed that Chelsea and Napoli both expressed an interest in the club's prized asset Nicolo Barella in January.
The Serie A side are braced for further bids but Guilini also warned clubs they'd better be prepared to pay in excess of €50m.
The Cagliari youth product first caught the attention of rival managers after an impressive campaign last season. Current Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri flagged the midfield star up at former club Napoli and may have to go head to head with his old employers for his signature.
Barella has quickly risen to become a regular starter for the Italian national side in the past year, which has attracted further interest from some of Europe's top clubs.
“I cannot deny that there was concrete interest from Napoli in January. Maurizio Sarri also wanted him at Chelsea," Guilini said, as quoted by Football Italia. “[But] Barella was never close to a January exit.”
Guilini rates Barella very highly, comparing his style to Inter star Radja Nainggolan. He added: “It’s banal to make the comparison, but he does remind me of Radja Nainggolan, even if Nicolò is more technically-gifted than Radja.”
“I don’t know what his future holds, but he is a player who can grow a great deal more. We hope he can continue to do that while wearing our jersey. Next year it is his beloved Cagliari’s Centenary. It’ll take more than €50m.”
The versatile 22-year-old has become one of the hottest young stars in Serie A for intelligence and composure beyond his years. Barella won consecutive Italian Young Player of the Year awards in 2012 and 2013, drawing comparisons to Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard.