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Fiorentina prospect countdown: 15-11

Now we’re getting to some of the big names.

Italy v Denmark - U18 International Friendly
What’s that? I’m going to be very good? Damn right.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Let’s dive right back into our list of the top 20 prospects in the Fiorentina system with numbers 15 through 11.

15. Julián Illanes

The skinny: The 20-year-old Argentinean centerback has everything you want to see in a central defender. He’s tall, strong, fearless, good in the tackle and in the air, and reads the game well. He’s a bit basic on the ball, but there’s always a spot in Florence for a rugged Argentine defender. There were murmurs this summer that he could be ready for a step up to the first team, but his performances in the friendlies at Moena shut that idea down immediately; he looked nervous, tentative, and dallied on the ball, causing Stefano Pioli to yell at him several times. Although he’s not ready for the big-time yet, he’s still a good player who’s only going to get better with more time on the pitch. We think he’s the best academy central defender since Michele Camporese, and Illanes doesn’t have knees made of chewing gum, which bodes well for him too.

Goals for this season: Take a loan move somewhere in Serie C, nail down a starting spot, and do your thing

14. Martin Graiciar

The skinny: The 18-year-old hitman is a bit of a wildcard, as he hasn’t played a minute in purple. Bought from Slovan Liberec for €1.5 million in July, his only time in Florence was for his medical and to sign his paperwork; he rejoined his old side on loan immediately afterward, where he should drop into the starting lineup. He’s a rugged player with a knack for finding himself space in the box, and he’s a ruthless finisher. He’s also got the pace to push out to the wing, but he’s obviously a striker first and foremost. A Czechia U19 veteran, he’s got 2 goals in his 6 appearances and could be ready for a step up sooner. He nearly signed with Arsenal last year, too, but the Gunners decided against offering him a contract. If he continues developing the way he has been, Arsene Wenger could regret that decision in a few more years.

Goals for this season: Consistently produce in the hurly-burly of the HET Liga and you may have a shot for first-team relevance next year

13. Riccardo Sottil

The skinny: The son of former Fiorentina defender Andrea Sottil, Riccardo can operate anywhere across the front line but looks happiest on the left wing, where he can cut inside onto his stronger right foot. He’s quick and direct, the type of attacker who doesn’t waste time with step-overs but drives straight at the opposing goal. He likes to drift inside to the back post when the ball’s on the other side of the pitch, but he’s at his best making clever runs off the striker and finishing unfussily. He also hits a set piece rather well. He scored tallied 15 goals and 4 assists for the Primavera this past season and earned a call to the Italy U18s, with whom he’s made 3 appearances. He’s still pretty raw, but there’s a lot of potential in there.

Goals for this season: Keep beating up everyone else in the Primavera

12. Gabriele Gori

The skinny: Another 18-year-old striker, huh? Yeah, it’s not creative, but it’s right. Gori spent his first year in the Primavera terrorizing opposing defenses, notching 11 goals and 2 assists in 20 appearances. He looks the part at 6’1 (187 cm) and possesses a build like a dang tank, which he uses to bully centerbacks like an old pro. His movement in the box is good, he’s got enough pace to be a threat in behind, and he can play on the wing in a pinch. He’s also scored 5 goals in 7 appearances for the Italy U18s, which is encouraging. His finishing sometimes leaves something to be desired, but he gets himself into the right spots so often that we’ll forgive a couple of misses while he’s growing up. It’s the red cards that worry us a bit more, as he was sent off twice this year, but it’s all part of his infectiously enthusiastic personality. He also shares a name with one of Italy’s top beach soccer players, so I guess that’s reasonably auspicious too.

Goals for this season: Make the Primavera tremble in fear

11. Vitja Valenčič

The skinny: The 18-year-old defensive midfielder joined Fiorentina from Olimpija in 2015 and seamlessly slotted into the Primavera engine room. He’s got everything you could want from a man at the base of the midfield: an excellent reading of the game both with and without the ball, the technique to wiggle away from markers, an enviable passing range, tough tackling, and outstanding vision. Add a powerful shot and a willingness to do the dirty work and you get a complete player. In 26 appearances this year, he scored twice and assisted 2 more, although that doesn’t get at his impact; he’s a pass-before-the-pass who consistently frees up the attackers to do their thing. The only reason he’s not ranked higher here is because he shredded his cruciate ligament in training last March and that can be a difficult injury for anyone to overcome.

Goals for this season: Pick up where you left off and we’ll be very, very happy