Over the past 2 years, Riccardo Saponara had become this decades Rolando Bianchi: a player always linked in the media for a move to Fiorentina that never actually materialized. In true Corvino fashion, though, the club announced earlier today that the former Empoli trequartista will move just down the road to Florence for the remainder of the season, and the Gigliati will have the option to buy him if he impresses.
After Empoli snapped him up from his hometown club Ravenna with a €1.35 million fee, big things were predicted for the then 17-year-old. After a few solid seasons with Empoli, though, AC Milan bought his player card. It never clicked for him in Milan, and he eventually returned to Empoli in 2015, first on loan, then permanently. Long considered one of the outstanding young talents on the peninsula, he’s gone as far as he can go with Empoli.
The move really came out of nowhere, too. Just yesterday we heard rumbles that Ricky was on his way, but everyone dismissed them as typical market chatter. Instead, Fiorentina announced the loan move, sending the journalists scrambling. While we haven’t yet heard any official figure for the fee to make the intra-Tuscan move permanent, it’s expected to be between €8 million and €10 million.
Saponara has made 163 appearances for Empoli, notching 28 goals and 36 assists. While he can operate on the wing, he’s at his best in a central attacking role, where his deceptive speed, excellent technique, and eye for the killer pass let him wreak havoc with opposing defenses. He’s currently out with an ankle injury, but should be healthy again some time next month.
All in all, this is about as perfect a move as Viola fans can hope for. He’s a talented and proven contributor for a Serie A team, has deep Tuscan roots, and fills a position of desperate need. He’s almost certainly Borja Valero‘s eventual successor and should be extremely useful in unlocking a packed-back defense. While it may take him a little while to get healthy, settled in, and acclimated to playing a slightly deeper role than he’s used to, he’s the sort of player who can keep a team rolling for a long time. Just enjoy the video and imagine him conducting the purple symphony. Nice, isn’t it?