Nenad Tomović (Chievo Verona): The 30-year-old Serbian defender has settled right into manager Rolando Maran’s backline, where he fits the Verona template of a former Fiorentina defender (Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini, Massimo Gobbi). He’s started all but 2 matches for the Flying Donkeys and helped them to a solid if unspectacular 11th place in Serie A. On the other hand, he’s been at least partly at fault for 6 of the 8 goals that the Gialloblu have conceded over their past two matches, so he’s undeniably still our Nenad. We assume that DS Giancarlo Romairone will trigger his clause at year’s end, but Tommy could end up back in Florence come next summer with 2 years left on his contract.
Lorenzo Venuti (Benevento): The 22-year-old rightback has had a rough start to his Serie A career, as the Stregoni have been hands down the worst team in Serie A. Part of that is a league-worst 29 goals conceded, for which Venuti certainly requires some blame. However, a genuine defensive crisis that forced the 176 cm/5’9 fullback to play as a centerback for the past couple of weeks has made him look perhaps worse than he is, as has a generally helpless midfield. Still and all, though, Lolo’s not exactly covered himself with glory and looks a step slow for Serie A now. There’s also a chance that new manager Roberto de Zerbi decides to revoke Venuti’s unquestioned starter status and give Gaetano Letizia or Bright Gyamfi a chance. We still believe in Lorenzo, but he definitely needs some more seasoning before he’s ready for the Viola.
Jaime Báez (Pescara): The 22-year-old Uruguayan attacker is really struggling right now. He’s spent the past few weeks with the Primavera rather than the first team, and has made just 3 appearances, tallying 101 minutes, a yellow card, and no involvement amongst the goals. Perhaps the most damning indictment is that legendarily attack-minded manager Zdenek Zeman is the Delfini boss; if you’re a pacy, hard-working, and technically-talented winger who can’t find a job in Zemanlandia, you’ve got some serious problems. Jaime’s contract with Fiorentina doesn’t expire until 2020, but don’t be surprised to see him loaned with a minuscule fee to buy him next year. He’s not a Corvino player, and he just hasn’t shown anything since arriving in Italy 2 years ago.
Gaetano Castrovilli (Cremonese): The 20-year-old midfielder remains manager Attilio Tesser’s favored option off the bench when some midfield creativity is called for. Castrovilli’s now up to 5 appearances on the season (albeit just one start) and has opened his scoring account as well. As the Tigri have surged to a surprising 7th place in their first Serie B season since 2005, Tesser probably isn’t going to tinker with his lineup too much. That’s fine by us, as it’ll let the U20 international get regular playing time without putting too much pressure on him. Gaetano may not be ready for the Viola next year, but he’s got all the makings of a future star and we think he’ll have a heck of a career in Florence.
Jan Mlakar (Venezia): The 19-year-old Slovenian striker remains at the bottom of the pecking order in Venice, behind veterans Gianmarco Zigoni, Álex Geijo, and Stefano Moreo, and Davide Marsura. It’s surely frustrating for a kid who scored 12 goals in 23 appearances with the Primavera last year, but working under manager Filippo Inzaghi must be educational for any young forward. He’s at least getting some time with the Slovenia U21s, demonstrating his usual predatory instincts in the U21 Euro qualifier against Luxembourg with a goal and a penalty won in just 35 minutes. His lack of playing time in the league doesn’t have us too worried; we think the young man who’s already been dubbed “the new Nikola Kalinić” is on the right track and is ready to explode onto the scene at any moment.
Luca Zanon (Ternana): The 21-year-old leftback has finally made his first couple of appearances for the Fère, coming on as a substitute for a total of 35 minutes. He’s since been sent back to the bench, but as the Rossoverdi have slumped to 20th in the table—that’s a relegation spot—manager Sandro Pochesci may try to shuffle his lineup soon. That could mean an opportunity for Zanon, which he’ll need to grasp with both hands if he wants Ternana to trigger his buy clause at the end of the year. He seems to be on the outside looking in as Corvino builds up a youth movement, but there’s still some hope for his future in Florence as the Crow did insert a buyback clause into the deal. For now, though, Luca just needs to get onto the pitch and not worry about the rest.
Kevin Diks (Feyenoord—Netherlands): The 21-year-old Dutch rightback has suffered a bit of a dip in form over the past month, which has coincided with his club dropping from 1st in the Eredivisie to 5th, including a 1-4 loss to archrivals Ajax in Rotterdam. Diks has been a popular scapegoat, but in fairness to him, he’s been shunted in at an unfamiliar centerback position, where he doesn’t look nearly as comfortable. He was certainly partly at fault for Kasper Dolberg’s late go-ahead goal in de Klassieker, but he’s otherwise been serviceable, at least, and hes yet to be booked this year, which is pretty impressive. While Mario Gaspar and Vincent Laurini are perfectly adequate on the right flank, Diks could easily be miles better than either in a year or two, regardless of his current form. Don’t forget that he’s still on the verge of stardom.
Gilberto (Vasco da Gama—Brazil): The 24-year-old Brazilian rightback has recovered from an injury that kept him out for most of October and is working his way back to fitness. He’s started 20 matches and has looked okay, with some nice moments offsetting some poor ones. He still doesn’t have the instincts or nous to drop into a Serie A defense, but his pace and energy could see him make a pretty good wingback. However, it seems safe to say that the Gilberto ship has sailed, as his petulance surely hasn’t enamored the Viola management of him. His contract doesn’t expire until 2020, but the presence of Gaspar, Laurini, Diks, and Venuti have rendered Gilberto surplus, and he’ll probably move on sooner rather than later.
Martin Graiciar (Slovan Liberec—Czechia): The 18-year-old Czech striker continues to impress, bagging a goal and winning a penalty a couple weeks ago against Dukla Praha to bring his scoring tally up to 3 in 7 appearances. Against Dukla, he was dominant in the air, forcing a defender to drag him down on a cross for the penalty and then absolutely dunking on his marker to head home another long ball into the box.
Graiciar is obviously in the perfect setup right now: he’s assured a starting spot in a team that plays to his strengths—aerial prowess, finishing, slipping in behind—while competing for a place in the Europa League. Manager Jindřich Trpišovský isn’t overplaying the teenager, though, and knows enough to give him the odd week off for rest and to see to his responsibilities with the Czechia U19s. It’s hard to tell this early, but Martin certainly looks the part of a big-time striker. A loan in Serie C or Serie B next year is the next step, and we think he’s ready.
Andrés Schetino (Esbjerg—Denmark): The 23-year-old Uruguayan midfielder took to life in the Danish 1. Division like a fish to water. He’s started every match for manager John Lammers and even scored a goal with a neat finish off a set piece against Vendsyssel.
Because this is Schetino we’re talking about, there has to be a catch somewhere, and in this case it’s a lower-body injury that’s kept him out for the past 3 weeks. If he gets healthy and back to his football, it’s a foregone conclusion that Esbjerg will exercise their option to buy him. We’re glad for Andrés, who’s finally showing signs of life, and hope that this helps him restart his career.