GOAL - by Sergio Chesi & Alberto Pinero
Napoli are attempting to sell a handful of players in order to raise funds for the permanent transfer of James Rodriguez from Real Madrid - all while Atletico Madrid are poised to swoop should a move to Serie A fall through.
The Partenopei's sporting director, Cristiano Giuntoli, was in the Spanish capital recently with the hope of closing a deal for the Colombian, but his request for a loan was quickly turned down as Madrid will only consider an outright sale without the option of staggered payments.
Giuntoli's trip was the second of such visits and essentially nothing changed after the latest meeting, with James still looking for a way out of the Santiago Bernabeu.
Sources have told Goal that Napoli are now moving fast to raise funds to match Madrid's asking price.
Publicly, president Aurelio De Laurentiis has said that the ball is in Real's court, insisting that the attacker is keen on a move to the Serie A club and that it is his parent club that must lower their demands.
Privately, however, club chiefs have been working behind the scenes to finalize the sales of up to three players in order to raise the required funds, perhaps aware that they do not have the upper hand in negotiations.
Roberto Inglese is the first of the trio, with the striker set to complete a permanent move to Parma in a deal that could fetch as much as $23 million (£18m/€20m).
The others include Marko Rog, who is close to a move to Eintracht Frankfurt, and Brazilian Carlos Vinicius, who is also represented by James's agent Jorge Mendes.
In total, Napoli hope to raise around $56m (£45/€50m), more than enough to match Madrid's $47m (£38m/€42m) asking price, and aim to have all of those deals wrapped up as early as next week before moving swiftly for James.
Other players are likely to leave Naples too, including Elseid Hysaj, Adam Ounas and Simone Verdi, but negotiations for the sales of those individuals are far from completed.
Time is very much of the essence for Napoli, as Atletico wait in the wings to pounce if the Italian side's efforts ultimately fail.
Goal can confirm that James likes the idea of testing himself in Serie A and reuniting with Carlo Ancelotti, but that he's also open to the idea of staying in Madrid. He already knows the Spanish capital well and has a house there, too.
Another factor to consider is that Diego Simeone has put the playmaker at the top of his wishlist, with the club confident they have the financial muscle to get a deal over the line almost immediately.
The biggest stumbling block in a move to the Wanda Metropolitano is Real themselves, however. James's employers have already sold Marcos Llorente to their city rivals and would rather see their player move to Italy instead – even if Atleti offer more money.
And so, James's future now lies in the hands of De Laurentiis, Inglese, Rog and Vinicius. The clock is ticking.