Fiorentina fans hungry for better results might be frustrated that the club isn't being linked with a big name "fixer" player yet for January, but it is certainly gratifying to observe that the Viola staff is taking seriously the process of keeping key players in Florence. After revising Juan Cuadrado's contract at the beginning of the season, now the attention has turned to the some of the best performers in this disappointing fall campaign.
The wrangling over extending the contract of Alberto Aquilani has been ongoing since the beginning of the season, but his consistently good performances (with the exception of the Napoli game, yes) have certainly helped his cause. Fiorentina want to offer him 2 years at a slightly reduced wage, but the now-veteran Italian midfielder and his agent prefer to keep the same wage for 3 years. Regardless, there seems to be little inclination from either side to play hardball. Fiorentina has resurrected the career of il Principino, while Aquilani provides Vincenzo Montella with a tactically flexible midfielder that encourages the short passing game that the "mister" prefers.
Khouma Babacar looks to be an even easier contract to resolve. The 21 year old Senegalese who has finally emerged from the Fiorentina Primavera to be a real protagonist this season is set to be locked into a long-term deal with the club. Speaking at an event with fans yesterday he seemed quite confident, stating that there were "no problems" with the impending renewal. Both he and Federico Bernardeschi appear to be keys to the future Fiorentina, with a long-term contract also ready for Bernardeschi once he has put some distance between himself and his recent operation.
The most difficult renewal at present appears to be the case of our goalkeeper, Norberto Murara Neto. The Brazilian-born keeper has continued to grow after being shown confidence by Montella last season, and capped another good performance in defeat to Napoli last week with an emphatic save on Marek Hamsik before joining the Brazilian Seleção for the first time. The hard part in finding a new contract deal is that both parties have excellent reasons for demanding what they are demanding. Neto and his agent are looking for a high wage long-term contract (as a budding excellent number one goalkeeper should have) that will give him peace of mind that he will keep the starting spot that he has earned for seasons to come. He did essentially bring us to the Coppa Italia Final single-handed after all, so Fiorentina owe him. A high wage will guarantee that Fiorentina don't shut him out in the prime of his career, especially at a time when he is playing very well and may have other offers on the table.
For their part, Prade and Macia and the rest of the backroom gang will not want to unbalance themselves financially on a still-young keeper, especially Ciprian Tatarusanu looking very good when called upon. And of course, la Viola will reason collectively that they were patient with Neto through his struggles as the number 2 to Emiliano Viviano and then early last season; Neto owes them a debt of gratitude after all, and maybe a slightly low wage. And adding pressure to the whole situation is the fact that Neto's contract expires in the summer. See how hairy this one is?
While all these discussions have been happening behind closed doors, Prade and Macia have made headlines themselves in the past week. Daniele Prade had an eye-catching press conference to respond to fan and media criticism and boost the team, while Eduardo Macia was very publicly linked to a new job at Barcelona. Macia reaffirmed his dedication to the Fiorentina project in response to these rumors.
Now to settle these contract extensions one way or another, and to look ahead to January. Can't wait to report on the injury-prone players that we are sure to scout (kidding. Well not really). Tell us whose contract should be the priority below the line since, well, I honestly don't know!