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Viola Nation grades the mercato

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Much as in our season preview, we’re going to give grades, make predictions, and probably get some stuff wrong.

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A
“Even Viola Nation thinks our mercato was pretty good!”
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Who was the best signing of the transfer window for the upcoming season? Who'll be the best in five years?

Nolan: Although Hernan Toledo and Ianis Hagi have home run potential, the best long term move was like Carlos Salcedo. If he can adapt, he has the qualities to become a natural successor to Gonzalo, not as skilled but bigger and stronger. Short term I think one of Carlos Sanchez or Sebastian Cristoforo may prove to be extremely valuable, especially as players that Sousa may love, with the latter having a lot of upside.

JSE: In terms of the transfers we have secured it has to be sewing up the deal with Cagliari for Astori. In regard to new faces I would venture there is not a standout amongst them. If my hand was forced I would go with Sebastian Cristoforo purely on the basis that he has recently excelled in one of Europe's top leagues playing for a pretty decent team in Sevilla. Also at the age of 23 Cristoforo has time on his side, who knows he could be a really big deal in the coming years.

Huw: The best signing of the transfer window - and stick with me here - was Thomas Vermaelen signing for AS Roma. After a summer spent circling over Borja Valero like vultures, Roma managed to mess up the Champions League qualifiers in a more hilarious fashion than any Italian team has ever done before. Even after going 1-0 up in the first leg, Vermaelen laid the circus-style foundations of what was to follow by getting sent off. We all know how that ended.

That meant they were left short budget-wise and probably meant that they didn’t have the money to splash out on the Spanish midfielder. So we get to keep Valero. In a summer of fairly unexciting signings, we have to get creative with this.

In five years time, I reckon Dragowski will be regarded as the best signing, simply because he has the best name.

Tito: Finally getting Cristian Tello back on loan (and hopefully long-term) is huge. His pace, technique, and tendency to stay high and wide to stretch the defense are all qualities otherwise absent in the squad, and he’s proven that he’s an excellent fit for this team and this league. Knowing Corvino, the best in five years is going to be some 15-year-old we didn’t even notice arriving, but I’ll go out on a limb and throw Josip Maganjic’s name in the ring. Unfortunately, this means he’s almost certain to flame out in two years and be sold to a team in the third tier of the Haitian league system or something.

Who was the least exciting signing?

Nolan: Probably Hrvoje Milic, who looked promising in his debut but at 27 is unlikely to be a revelation; I like the signing but realistically if he's a Jose Maria Basanta or Per Kroldrup type backup than he would be a success, any more than that would be a shocker. Fellow defender Sebastian De Maio doesn't fill me with excitement either but he was a very smart stopgap; that being said he's probably a rental and if he's here more than a year or so it would not be an encouraging sign. Young goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski may be one for the future but his arrival suggests the club is not high on Luca Lezzerini, who I thought looked promising.

JSE: For me it was Sebastian De Maio purely because we were heavily linked with him during the last window and I was not overly pleased back then either. Then when we signed him in this window i thought jeez we may as well have signed him in January instead of Benalouane and Kone and whoever else we signed for no good reason eight months ago. I also thought it might signal an obvious and downbeat mercato for the Viola. Thankfully my cynicism was ill founded.

Huw: Tello. He’s probably the best player signed this window (or at least, had his loan move made permanent) but I struggle to get excited by him. That he’s the biggest name in through the door is a bit uninspiring. But I like a lot of the other transfers.

Tito: I feel bad saying it, but it’s got to be Hrvoje Milic. Looking competent against Chievo Verona is probably the most we can expect of him; asking anything else of a 27-year-old journeyman who’s flamed out at smaller teams in Russia and Sweden is unrealistic. On the other hand, I suppose competence against smaller teams is all he needs to exhibit to be relatively useful.

What almost or rumored move do you regret not happening?

Nolan: The return of Stevan Jovetic probably would have ended up disappointing, but I'm still upset that it didn't happen, especially with the departure of Giuseppi Rossi. Even if he ended up spending time injured, he's more prolific than Zarate or Ilicic and would have at least improved the teams lack of finish.

JSE: It is prudent to remember that not many things are as good the second time around as the first, that said who wouldn’t want to see Jojo back in purple? I venture not many Viola fans. The fact that it would probably have turned out disastrously, with the ex boy wonder picking up a season ending injury during a five minute spell as a substitute during his first game back, is for me irrelevant. Objectively I would have to concede that this would not necessarily be a great move for the club and i guess that is why it did not happen.

As a fan though the heart wants what the heart wants and sometimes the heart has to overrule the head. The first time I visited Florence was in 2012 and I remember at that time on 99% of the replica football shirts be they authentic or fake being hawked on the streets and piazzas around town was the name Jovetic. That no.8 jersey was everywhere I went, Jovetic was and had been the undisputed star of the team for a good while and had deservedly conquered the replica shirt market. On subsequent visits I noticed the no.49 and the no.20 had taken the place of the no.8, and although i haven’t been to Florence for a year I believe the no.10 is doing a good trade now. Jovetic earned his way to that poster boy slot in a way that some of the other players who have inhabited it have not. Jojo was a player who arrived at the Franchi with everything to prove, and over the course of his time with the club he undeniably proved himself worthy of the fans admiration. Watching his career go downhill in Manchester and Milan is frustrating. Injuries have of course played a part in that process but with some players you just think they are a good fit at a certain club, and i get that feeling with Jovetic and Fiorentina. So for the fan in me not seeing Jovetic re-sign for the club and realising all of that brouhaha was for nothing, I won’t lie left me disappointed to say the least.

Huw: If anyone says anything other than Jovetic, then they're lying through their teeth. I don’t care that he’s a bit older and a bit more injured. I don’t care that he left. I just wanted him back.

Tito: Jovetic would have been nice (and I still murmur his name right before I fall asleep every night), but I’ll go with Davide Zappacosta. Fiorentina hasn’t had a dynamic rightback since the days of Tomas Ujfalusi, and the idea of him overlapping past Tello or Federico Bernardeschi was tantalizing. It also would have pushed Nenad Tomovic off the right flank, and given Kevin Diks a role model to emulate.

What was the most surprising move?

Nolan: Salcedo and Cristoforo were both classic Corvino fat ninja moves, coming with no prior hints while the club was linked with alternatives.

JSE: That award has to also go to Sebastian Cristoforo, not only was this signing completely out of the blue, but it was adding strength to an already solid midfield. I think it is fair to say Pantaleo Corvino is full of surprises. In this transfer window if you heard a player was being linked to the club and the deal had not been sealed and announced as official within say 36 hours of the rumour surfacing, then it felt you were on pretty solid ground to rule it out as fallacious paper talk. It is what made me think the Jovetic deal was not going to happen simply because there was too much talk surrounding it. In terms of buying players there was no drawn out sagas, which I must say is how I like a team to do their business, so kudos to Corvino and company for that.

Huw: Getting Chelsea to spend that much money on Alonso. And getting Wolfsburg to spend any money on Gomez.

Tito: Once again, I think that Marcos Alonso was a very solid piece of this squad, but getting €27 million for him is just bugspit crazy, especially since Maxi Olivera probably isn’t much of a downgrade, if he’s even a downgrade at all, and will probably end up costing a quarter of that at most.

Which unit got the biggest upgrade? Which was downgraded or left dangerously thin?

Nolan: The defense certainly got the biggest upgrade - there's still questions, especially on the flanks (say what you want about Marcos Alonso, he's being replaced by an unknown quality), but at least we have options, and might not be as hopelessly dependent on Gonzalo's health as we were last year. The forward group on the other hand was downgraded, especially with Babacar's future up in the air. The loss of Mati Fernandez, while expected, also gives us no real backup for Borja.

JSE: The strength in depth in the midfield is now pretty impressive, I wonder how Sousa is going to keep all of those midfielders happy. I think we are a bit light up front we could do with another centre forward in the no.9 mould. That said hopefully Babacar will get more opportunities to shine. I think losing Marcos Alonso makes the team weaker, I think the Spaniard actually provided a very decent option for Sousa be that employed as a wing back or an orthodox full back or as he would sometimes play as a centre back (not that I personally ever wished to see him play in that position). I just hope Maxi Olivera lives up to the good reputation he seems to be bringing with him. Overall I think Corvino and the club have done a pretty decent job, there seems to be cover in all areas except for up top.

Huw: Midfield probably got reinforced the most, just by bringing in Sanchez. Now there’s a legitimate back up to Vecino and Badelj, which was vital. With injuries/exhaustion/European follies, midfield cover was essential.

We’ve gone from spending all last season crying out for a real right back to selling the only two proper left backs in the squad. That’s sort of hilarious.

Tito: The defensive upgrades are pretty impressive. After carrying three centerbacks, one rightback, and two leftbacks last season (of whom three were actually starting-caliber players), Fiorentina now has 4 very capable centerbacks, a solid leftback platoon, and a pair of rightbacks who should be able to at least hold down their flank. The defensive unit as a whole is on par with anyone not named Juventus now. I think that the wings are a bit thin—Tello and Bernardeschi are proven commodities, but it’s just Hernan Toledo and Ianis Hagi behind them, as well as perhaps Mauro Zarate. And injury to either of those first two could prove completely devastating.

What grade would you give this mercato?

Nolan: This one is tough...on the surface it's a B, as the team fundamentally has much of the same weaknesses as it did last year, although the depth is much better and Sousa now has options to play more defensively, which I'm not yet convinced is a good thing. There is a lot of potential that it could be better than that.

JSE: I would grade this mercato as a B+, Corvino with little in terms of funds has seemingly made this team a lot tidier a prospect than what it was when he found it. All that was lacking was a big name signing, but I’m not sure anyone ever thought that was actually ever in the pipeline. Maybe the signing of the summer was actually Corvino himself, I must say I am a big fan of his work.

Huw: D in terms of bringing in players, B in terms of selling them, and B in terms of hanging on to the important, tough-to-replace lads (Valero, Badelj, Gonzalo). Overall, I’d be thinking a strong C, potentially revised if any of the kids come good.

Tito: A-. Getting a heap of cash for Alonso, any cash at all for Mario Gomez, cutting the cord (it was necessary) with Giuseppe Rossi, hanging onto Milan Badelj, Matias Vecino, and Nikola Kalinic, picking up depth where the squad was thinnest last year, and signing a bunch of promising youngsters is really good. Doing it while turning a significant profit is absolutely fabulous. I was worried that Corvino was past it, but am prepared to eat crow.