Since it’s a bit more difficult than usual to get excited about this upcoming Fiorentina season, let’s have a look at the team’s mid- to long-term future. We’re going to count down the top 20 youth prospects in the Viola system to introduce everyone to the guys you can expect to see wearing purple in the coming years. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
20: Luca Ranieri
The skinny: The 18-year-old leftback is a promising young defender, having already compiled 6 caps for the Italy U18s. He’s less of a so-called modern fullback who spends his time in the opposition half and more of a throwback: he marks well, tackles well, and isn’t afraid to get his shirt dirty. He’s a long ways from being Serie A ready, but we could end up seeing him sooner rather than later; he’s the only leftback on the roster besides Maxi Olivera.
Goals for this year: Tear it up for the Primavera again, keep it going with the Azzurini, and put yourself in position for a loan move to Serie C next season
19: Jaime Báez
The skinny: That the 22-year-old Uruguayan attacker is even on this list speaks volumes of his natural ability, since he hasn’t really done anything since coming to Italy in 2015. Loan spells with Livorno and Spezia went down with distressing similarity: an initial berth in the first XI, a 3-month grace period, an alarming lack of production, and successive demotions to the bench and out of the matchday squad. He’s running out of time, too, to prove himself, as he’s not a Corvino guy and he’s exhausted the goodwill that a talented prospect usually gets. However, he’s so gifted—fast, tireless, technical, skillful, the whole nine yards—that he deserves at least one more shot.
Goals for this year: Consistently make the right decision in the final third, whether that’s as a reserve for Fiorentina or on loan somewhere else
18: Michele Cerofilini
The skinny: The 18-year-old goalkeeper certainly looks the part. He got some serious exposure this past season for a heroic display in the TIM Cup semifinal against Juventus, in which he propelled a 10-man Fiorentina to a win on penalties, culminating with his save on a Moise Keane panenka on the decisive spot-kick. He’s much lighter on his feet than you’d expect from a large kid, and he’s got very quick reflexes. As you’d expect, he’s still learning how to control the area, but he has all the tools to be a very good goalkeeper.
Goals for this year: Take the Primavera back to the final and win some silverware, then begin the long slog through loan moves away to relevance with the Viola first-team
17: Marco Meli
The skinny: The 17-year-old attacker has spent his entire career with Fiorentina, earning his promotion to the Primavera this past season at the age of 16. Such precociousness has naturally attracted a bit of attention, and none less than Stefano Pioli singled him out for praise at Moena this season. He’s a clever, technical player who likes to play behind a main striker, although he can also shift out to the wing or even lead the line himself in a pinch. He scored 11 goals in 41 appearances at the U17 level for the club.
Goals for this year: Make yourself as a fixture with the Primavera and get ready for the future
16: Fabio Maistro
The skinny: The 19-year-old schemer was pretty unimpressive with the Primavera last year if you just look at the numbers. 7 appearances and a goal don’t exactly get the blood pumping. But if you look a bit more closely, you’ll notice that he only spent the first half of the year with the kids; starting in late January, he ended up spending most of his time on the bench with the senior side. While that’s perhaps more an indictment of the squad depth than an endorsement of the player himself, we like Maistro a lot. He’s a smart, disciplined figure who controls the middle of the pitch with his passing and tackling, possesses good vision and passing range, and doesn’t make many mistakes.
Goals for this year: He could be a candidate for a move away, although it’s a bit late in the game for that now; if he stays, a few appearances with the senior team seem reasonable and achievable.