In a move that comes out of nowhere, Fiorentina have announced that striker Jan Mlakar, a former star with the Primavera who’s been on loan at Venezia, has been sold back to Slovenia, where he’ll join regular Champions League qualifiers Maribor. And when we say “sold,” we mean “released from his contract and allowed to leave on a free transfer.”
It’s a stunning turn of events for Mlakar, who was a bona fide monster with the Primavera. He broke out shortly after joining the Viola from NK Domzale in 2015 for a million euros, bullying overmatched opponents to the tune of 17 goals in 24 appearances with the U19 side. While his record was less impressive last year (“only” 17 in 36), the disruption caused by several call-ups to the senior team was probably the primary culprit rather than any drop in form from the youngster, who even got a 20-minute cameo against Palermo for his club debut. Heck, we (rather, I) tabbed him as the fourth-best prospect in the Viola system last year.
When he went on loan to Serie B outfit Venezia at the start of this season, I foolishly assumed he’d settle right in as a starter. Instead, he played just 20 minutes, spending most matches in the stands watching Davide Marsura, Gianmarco Zigoni, and Álex Geijo work up top. It was a discouraging turn of events for the heralded 19-year-old, but we weren’t worried; after all, adjusting to his first season with a professional club—coached by Pippo Inzaghi, so no pressure, strikers—would maybe take a little while. Surely he’d bounce back.
Instead, Pantaleo Corvino has let him go for nothing in what looks suspiciously like the continued purge of every Daniele Pradè acquisition on the roster. Perhaps there’s a buyback clause in the deal that hasn’t been made public, but it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. After all, it’s not like Fiorentina are set at striker for the foreseeable future. Giovanni Simeone hasn’t proved that he’s the solution, Khouma Babacar’s future remains in inexplicable limbo, and Cyril Théréau is 34. The youth ranks contain a host of promising players, but the only out-and-out strikers in the bunch who look like they could possibly come good are Martin Graiciar and Gabriele Gori.
Again, it’s a bizarre move to let a 19-year-old you bought 3 years ago for a full million euros go for nothing, especially after he’s proven so productive at the youth level. Perhaps Corvino and co. have seen something in his play that indicates that he simply won’t make it, but I find that more difficult to believe than that Mlakar will score in the Champions League next year. So long, Jan. We really, really wish that you weren’t joining the likes of Fabrizio Miccoli, Dani Osvaldo, Haris Seferović, Kenneth Zohore, and Pietro Iemmello as forwards that the Viola gave up on too soon.