Although a binding decision has yet to be taken, sources in Italy last night told The Star that Nicola is expected to pursue other options in the transfer market this summer unless coaching staff at the Arechi Stadium can discover a solution to the centre-forward’s poor fitness record.
Mousset, who was informed earlier this month that United would not be taking up an option to extend his contract for a further 12 months, has missed 54 days of training and 11 matches since joining the Serie A club on loan in January.
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Having initially been ruled-out by a sprain, the exact nature of his latest fitness issue remains unknown. But Mousset has spent less than two hours on the pitch following Nicola’s appointment in February, having initially been signed by the 49-year-old’s predecessor Stefano Colantuono.
Salernitana were marooned inside the relegation zone and seemingly destined for a return to the second tier when Mousset, aged 26, first arrived in Campania.
But Nicola’s arrival proved the catalyst for what at one stage appeared an improbable march towards survival, with their top-flight status being confirmed on the final day despite being thrashed 4-0 by Udinese.
Cagliari, Venezia and Genoa - where one-time United target Alexander Blessin took charge four months ago - were the three teams to go down instead, prompting Nicola to declare: “It was the salvation of work and courage. The feat is the synthesis of what it means to become a team.”
The all-too-familiar tale
United will recognise Salernitana’s concerns about Mousset’s conditioning, with Heckingbottom and former manager Chris Wilder both expressing similar concerns in the past. Although the Frenchman enjoyed a brief renaissance under Slavisa Jokanovic at the beginning of last term, he has failed to fulfil the potential he displayed soon after completing a £10m move from AFC Bournemouth in the summer of 2019.
“We felt pressure but we worked and we sweated until the very end,” Nicola said, as he reflected upon Salernitana’s achievement.