sport

Napoli retain Balotelli hope

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis would prefer to see Mario Balotelli partner Edinson Cavani at the San Paolo than consider selling his star striker to Manchester City.

The Uruguayan forward fired Napoli back into third place in the Serie A table courtesy of a fine hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Roma, furthering his reputation as the envy of a host of top European clubs by bringing up his 20th goal of the season.

De Laurentiis has admitted rejecting a 55million euro (45million) offer for Cavani from an unnamed club in the summer but revealed the 25-year-old does have a 63million euro (51million) release clause in his contract.

City striker Balotelli has been mentioned as a potential makeweight should the Barclays Premier League champions look to bolster their forward line with Cavani, but De Laurentiis has other ideas.

He told Gazzetta.it: "City are considering letting Balotelli go so they can move for Cavani? I would prefer to see Balotelli playing with Cavani here at Napoli.

"Teams tend to hold onto their best players in January. You take a big risk making big investments now.

"There is still time for us to bring in new faces but we must be cautious. On January 31 you will see what moves Napoli have made."

Napoli's comfortable victory over Roma, in which Christian Maggio rounded off the scoring following Pablo Osvaldo's late response, sees the Campanian outfit return to the title race after suffering an uncomfortable end to 2012.

Four straight defeats in all competitions and a two-point deduction for alleged involvement in match-fixing saw Walter Mazzarri's men drift 10 points shy of league leaders Juventus.

Sunday night's win, coupled with Juve's surprise home defeat to Sampdoria, sees Napoli close to within two points of second-placed Lazio.

De Laurentiis added: "Are Napoli back on track? I say we have 39 points, 10 more than we had this time last year, because I'm not counting the two they took off us as a punishment.

"I think we'll get those points back and hopefully we'll get another 10 points on the pitch soon. Other teams have had a bad round and we can think about taking advantage.

"Napoli will definitely fight right until the end."