Nenad Tomović (Chievo Verona): The 30-year-old Serbian defender hasn’t made an appearance for the Donkeys yet, as his deadline day move occurred after the start of the international break, but he’s exactly the piece that Chievo needs to complete an all-Fiorentina backline. Just think of it: Andrea Seculin in goal with Tomović, Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini, and Massimo Gobbi in front of him. Heck, 60% of those guys have worn the Viola armband at some point. All Tommy has to do is beat out 33-year-old Nicolas Frey—whose brother also starred for the Gigliati—to make the dream come true.
Lorenzo Venuti (Benevento): The 22-year-old rightback has picked up where he left off last season, playing all 180 Serie A minutes in his second stretch with the Stregoni. Unfortunately, he hasn’t adjusted to the faster pace of the top flight yet; all 3 goals that the newcomers have conceded have been from his side of the pitch, and he could have been better on all of them. That said, it’s not exactly a shock that such a young player is struggling a bit in his first Serie A action. There’ve been some promising moments, too, so we think it’s merely a speed bump for him and that he’ll settle in soon enough. He’d better, as Carpi loanee Gaetano Letizia is ready right behind him.
Jaime Báez (Pescara): The 22-year-old Uruguayan attacker drew his first start this past Sunday, playing 64 minutes in the 4-2 loss at Perugia. True to form, he completely whiffed on a very good chance to open his tally. It’s good that he earned a start in this one, but Zdenek Zeman has a number of shiny young wingers to select, and Báez can’t afford the sort of profligacy that’s been his calling card throughout his career in Italy if he wants to keep earning minutes. His contract comes up in 2020, so he’s running out of time to convince Pantaleo Corvino to keep him around, even if he is yet another son of a former international—his father Enrique won 14 caps for Uruguay in the late 1980s.
Gaetano Castrovilli (Cremonese): The 20-year-old midfielder has certainly hit the ground running, as he scored his first goal in stoppage time of a 3-1 win over Avellino.
He also started both Coppa Italia matches for the Grigirossi and even got himself booked in a 1-2 loss at his former club Bari. He’s behind veteran Antonio Piccolo on manager Attilio Tesser’s team sheet, but another sparkling performance or two could change that rapidly. He’s poised for a breakout campaign, and we really hope that he takes that next step.
Jan Mlakar (Venezia): The 18-year-old Slovenian striker has been on the bench for the two league matches thus far, although he did make his debut appearance for the Arancioneroverdi in the form of a 1-minute cameo in a 1-2 reversal against Pordenone in the Coppa Italia. He’s currently buried behind AC Milan loanee Gianmarco Zigoni, Davide Marsura, and veteran Álex Geijo on the striking depth chart, but we’re not too worried. After all, this was always going to be a learning season for him, and working under Filippo Inzaghi means he could pick up some useful tricks (assuming he also learns what the offside rule is). He’s got the quality to crack the lineup occasionally, but that’s not what the season is about for the Slovenia U21 star. It’s about gaining experience as a professional that he can use to vault himself into a starring role next year, and he’s already well on his way.
Luca Zanon (Ternana): The 21-year-old leftback hasn’t made an appearance yet for the Rossoverdi. In fact, he hasn’t even been in the squad for a Serie B match, as manager Sandro Pochesci has opted for the experience of Alessandro Favalli or Johad Ferretti thus far. The latter, however, is more of a rightback, so there’s a clear path to minutes for Zanon. He just needs to improve in training and he should earn a chance at some point. After face-planting with Virtus Entella in Serie B two years ago and excelling for Pistoiese last year in Serie C, he needs to start putting it together for his own sake: Ternana has an option to buy him at the end of the year (although Fiorentina kept a buyback option) and his Viola contract runs out at the end of next season.
Kevin Diks (Feyenoord—Netherlands): The 20-year-old Dutch rightback has been in sparkling form thus far. He’s started all three Eredivisie matches for the Rotterdammers (as well as one in the Johan Cruiff Schall), and assisted 2 goals in a 5-0 demolition of Willem II (0:00 and 2:11 in the video).
Given the apparent inadequacies of Bruno Gaspar and Vincent Laurini, he may be Viola fans’ best hope for a top-notch rightback in another year or so. After all, he’s still a regular in the Dutch U21 setup and remains one of the most talented young rightbacks in the Netherlands. If he can continue this attacking form to match his usually solid defense, he could be a star sooner rather than later.
Gilberto (Vasco da Gama—Brazil): The 24-year-old Brazilian rightback has been rather up and down for the Almirante. While he’s started 19 of 21 league matches, the defense as a whole has been rather abysmal, shipping 34 goals—second worst in the league—en route to 12th place. While Gilberto certainly isn’t the entire problem, he’s not really reached the heights we might have hoped. Still, though, he should continue as the unquestioned starter, as his only competition on the right flank is the delightfully-named Yago Pikachu. Gilberto returns to Florence on the first day of 2018 (remember that Brazil’s season runs opposite to Italy’s), and it’s unclear if he’ll rejoin Fiorentina or get some vacation time. His contract with the Gigliati goes until 2020, so it’s equally likely that Corvino will try to make something of a player we once thought was the future Fiorentina rightback or try to recoup some of his losses with an immediate sale.
Martin Graiciar (Slovan Liberec—Czechia): The 19-year-old Czech striker is certainly looking like a steal at his €1.5 million transfer fee. He’s already scored 2 goals in 3 matches so far, both coming against Mladá Boleslav. For the first, he shook his marker on a corner kick and volleyed home with his left at the far post (0:00 in the video). For the second, he timed his run perfectly to split the defense, reach a long pass up from the back, and coolly slot home (1:00 in the video).
More than that, though, it’s been his movement that’s impressed. Whether it’s for club or country (with the Czechia U19s), he’s got a tremendous talent for finding space in the box, whether it’s by outmuscling defenders, outpacing them, or fooling them completely with his clever running. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a striker score such a preponderance of his goals while unmarked at the back post; at this point, it’s clearly not a fluke but rather a talent. While I doubt he’ll be ready to jump in ahead of Giovanni Simeone, Khouma Babacar, and Cyril Théréau next year, he’s got a bright future ahead of him and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
Andrés Schetino (Esbjerg—Denmark): The 23-year-old Uruguayan midfielder earned his first start on Sunday, although it ended in a 0-1 loss to Fremad Amager. Schetino had a rather mixed bag: only a miracle from goalkeeper Niklas Dannevang kept his header out, but he also made a couple of poor tackles and wasn’t particularly incisive with his passing. Still, it’s encouraging that manager John Lammers opted to start him even with the wealth of midfield depth on the roster. The downside is that, if the former €3.5 million man impresses this year, Esbjerg will trigger the clause to make his move permanent. Fiorentina don’t really stand to gain anything here: either Schetino impresses and is bought for a pittance, or he doesn’t and returns to Florence having been unable to perform even in the Danish second division. It’s hard to say which would be more frustrating.