Promotion pushers eyeing World Cup winning midfielder.
World Cup winner Simone Barone says he has held talks with Championship duo Watford and Leeds United over a potential January switch.
The Italian midfielder is a free agent after being released by Serie B side Livorno over the summer and the 34-year-old wants to join an English club in the new year, despite offers from his homeland.
Barone was part of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning squad under Marcello Lippi, making two substitute appearances for the triumphant Azzurri.
The enforcer, who boasts Serie A outfits Parma, Palermo and Chievo among his former employers, is currently training with a semi-professional team to keep fit and is taking his coaching badges but says he wants to keep on playing, preferably in England.
“In Italy football has changed a lot, and when you get over 30 it seems you are too old to play,” Barone exclusively told CaughtOffside.
“In Serie B and Lega Pro, teams get more money if they let youngsters play. Every year it gets more difficult. Moreover, some teams went bankrupt, and a lot of players found themselves without a contract.
“I’ve received some offers from Serie B clubs, such as Cesena, Novara and Pro Vercelli and, yes, I’ve had some contact with English clubs Watford and Leeds United.
When asked if England was his first choice, Barone replied: “Absolutely. The stadiums and pitches, unlike Italy, are fantastic. The fans’ passion and fair play are exemplary.
“I would love to try an experience abroad. The Premier League and Championship are leagues that really fascinate me, a complete different way of conceiving football. Stadiums are always full and the atmosphere is amazing.”
Midtable Watford are slowly climbing the Championship under former Italy and Chelsea midfielder Gianfranco Zola and are owned by the Italian Pozzo family, who also control Serie A outfit Udinese and Spanish club Grenada.
The Hornets currently have three Italian players on their books, all of whom are on loan from Udinese.
Struggling Leeds United are managed by former QPR boss Neil Warnock and are in need of reinforcements, after suffering a humiliating 6-1 defeat at home to Watford on Saturday.
Tickets still available for top football matches – Newcastle United v Man City tickets