For the first time in its history, Serie A has okayed its members to register a reserve team in a lower division. It’s a practice that’s most well-known in Spain—Barcelona and Real Madrid famously field reserve sides Barcelona B and Real Castilla in the second division—but other Spanish sides have similar setups, as well as numerous German teams whose reserves compete in the third or fourth tier. So far, the only club to take advantage of the new rule in italy has been Juventus, whose U23 side competes in Serie C, where they currently sit 15th with 11 points.
Given Newcastle Junior’s absurd number of players on loan, it makes a lot of sense for them to make use of this avenue. For Fiorentina, which has a much smaller roster and the youngest squad in the league anyways, there’s not quite as much focus on fielding a B team in Serie C, but since it’s the international break and everyone is super-bored, we’re going to have a look-see at what we can come up with.
Much like the Juvenuts, the rules I’m using are the same ones governing a nation’s Olympic team: all players must be 23 or younger at the start of the season except for 3 overage players. I’m also ignoring the financial and logistical constraints of the Viola fielding a B team, which would require a lot more outlay from the Della Valle brothers that I doubt they’re prepared to make.
Also, a couple of notes on who I picked. I didn’t take anyone who’s currently playing in Serie B or higher, because a drop down a level wouldn’t help them. Therefore, no saying that Gianluca Mancini or Ianis Hagi should be here, as they’re both at higher levels (whether the presence of a Serie C team they could have earned regular minutes on would have kept them around is another discussion). I also didn’t want to move every promising player out of the Primavera; I’m a fan of letting the kids play other kids unless they’re Federico Chiesa-level talents.
GK Alessandro Bacci: The 23-year-old from Prato is currently the backup at Ascoli in Serie B, where he’s playing in Coppa Italia matches only. Number one Filippo Perucchini, recently of Bologna, is just 27 and looks like he’ll be between the sticks for a long time. That means that Bacci will be relegated to the odd cup match, when you’d think he’s a bit better; he was quite good with the Primavera and has impressed in Serie C through several campaigns. With this imaginary B-team, he’d have a good shot at a starting berth.
GK Lorenzo Bardini: The 22-year-old Livorno native is currently a free agent with a full season of Serie C starting experience under his belt: he spent last year as the starter for Monopoli on loan from Cesena, who have since cut him loose. His final season with the Viola was as the Primavera number one in the 2014-2015 season, when he allowed just 24 goals in 26 appearances as he helped lead the youngsters to first place in the league. A former U16 international, he’d be an experienced and steady addition to the group, fully capable of starting if need be.
GK Giacomo Satalino: Currently sitting on Sassuolo’s bench, the 19-year-old once seemed a surefire star. Arsenal tried to buy him when he was just 16, and he turned in a string of very impressive performances with the Primavera in the 2016-2017 season and even making the bench for the senior side on a few occasions. However, the club began to look at Michele Cerofolini and Simone Ghidotti as the possible goalies of the future, and Satalino, seeing his path to playing time blocked, asked the club to terminate his contract so he could sign somewhere he’d be guaranteed more minutes. Pantaleo Corvino obliged, and the player joined the Neroverdi, where he had another rock solid season before aging out this year. With a B-team in play, he and Cerofolini could have split Primavera and Serie C duties however they saw fit, and he may well have stayed.
RB Luca Mosti: The 20-year-old hasn’t settled well at Arezzo in his first assignment away from the Primavera; he’s yet to make a competitive appearance for the Amaranti. However, he was quite good in the youth division and would probably benefit from the continuity of staying in Florence. He looks like he could yet come good, so he’s a decent shout here. I thought about replacing him with Kevin Diks, but the Dutchman’s starred in the Eredivisie and probably needs a bigger challenge than Serie C could provide.
RB Aleandro Rosi: The 31-year-old is another player with Viola history and lacking a club. While he’s been on the books at Genoa for a while, he’s been loaned out to basement Serie A sides for the past couple years before the Grifoni let his deal run out. That nobody in Serie B has bitten on a relatively cheap option with top flight experience yet shows that he may not have much left in the tank, but he could certainly hold it down in Serie C for a couple of years and provide some veteran leadership, or at least some appropriate bleeding.
CB Ricardo Bagadur: The 23-year-old Croatian is rolling along with the reserve team for NK Osijek in the second division in his home country, so he’s quite familiar with the dynamics of working with the B-team. The former U18 international has always looked the part, but never quite clicked in Italy; a lot of that might have been the shock of moving to a new country as a teenager. He did have a brief run at Salernitana in Serie B, but simply didn’t look ready. He’d almost certainly excel in Serie C, though, and would at worst provide experienced and quality depth, while becoming a plus starter in the best case scenario.
CB Nicolò Gigli: The 22-year-old has the perfect Fiorentina surname, so seeing him leave for Ternana last year stung. The Rossoveri let him leave for free, and he quickly signed for Serie C new boys Rieti. He’s already taken over the armband for them and has started all but one match for the Amarantocelesti, helping them to a surprising 16th, which would see them stay in the third tier—a substantial achievement for a club largely assembled from free agents, rejects from other clubs, and other unfancied players.
CB Petko Hristov: The 19-year-old is starting to look like the real deal, although his club form doesn’t really reflect that. He’s struggled with injuries and absences due to his national team commitments—he just got his first call for the Bulgaria U21s and skipped the U20s entirely, which shows that the FA thinks he’s a genuine talent. With a Viola B-team, he’d get more freedom to grow and work with Bulgaria without repercussion while still getting regular minutes at club level.
CB Saverio Madrigali: The 23-year-old is just a bench option at Lucchese in Serie C and hasn’t featured regularly since a breakout 2015 at Arezzo, when he firmly established himself as a starter and scored 4 goals. Two years stuck as a rotation option have seen his growth stagnate badly, to the point that Fiorentina opted not to renew his contract, but the talent is still there. Even if he doesn’t ever grow past Serie C level, he’d be a solid option in the heart of defense; if he’d gotten regular playing time these last two seasons, maybe he would’ve improved. If nothing else, he’d bring increase the handsomeness quotient in this side by roughly 50%.
CB Pierluigi Pinto: The 20-year-old has had an eye-opening start at Arezzo, playing every minute of every match in every competition. Seeing as how the Amaranti boast the best defensive record in the league, with just 7 goals conceded in 11 matches, it seems safe to say that he’d be just fine working with these guys at this level for a couple of years.
LB Nii Nortey Ashong: The 24-year-old Ghanaian’s birthday was on 17 November, so he barely squeaks in under the age requirements here. He was an ever-present force on the Primavera back from 2012 to 2014 before the team let him go, and he’s got plenty of Serie C experience over the past several years. Currently plying his trade with the Sliema Wanderers in the Maltese Premier League, he’s probably not a high-ceiling player at this point, but would, at the least, provide experienced cover at the position.
LB Luca Zanon: The 22-year-old is the sort of player who could’ve really benefited from a spell with a B-team. He’s been on loan to various second- and third-tier clubs since leaving the Primavera in 2015, but never really got his feet under him and has spent the majority of two of those years glued to the bench. As a former U20 international, he’s clearly got some talent, which he’s currently showcasing at Siena, but as a late bloomer whose peripatetic career has curtailed his development, you have to think that some continuity would have done wonders for him. At the very least, we’d have a better idea of his quality; as is, he’s likely to become a free agent at season’s end, as his contract is up and Corvino is unlikely to re-sign him.
CM Andy Bangu: The 21-year-old Congolese dynamo is another who’d benefit from a coherent, linear developmental plan rather than being tossed willy-nilly on loan all over the peninsula. As some of you may know, I think he’s a marvelous player, but his circumstances haven’t really let him express that as much, and he’ll be out of contract next year if management doesn’t offer him an extension. He made a whopping 122 appearances for the Primavera and netted an impressive 44 goals and 16 assists, which means he either scored or assisted every other game on average. That’s the sort of talent you want to cultivate rather than turn loose and barely watch.
CM Josh Brillante: The only real impression of Brillante we ever got wasn’t exactly positive, as he was thrown to the wolves in the season opener against AS Roma in 2014. As you’d expect from a 21-year-old who’d never played outside of Australia, it didn’t go well for him, and he never got his mojo working in Italy. When he returned to the A-League, he seemed like a blip on the radar, a bizarre Daniele Pradè blunder. However, he’s since blossomed with Sydney FC, helping them win the league two years ago and working his way into the Socceroos setup. He’s 25 now, so he’s over the age limit, but he’s the sort of guy who never should have played in Serie A from the get go; a few years of seasoning in Serie C may well have helped him stick around, as he clearly never got the help he needed in a new country.
CM Abdou Diakhate: The 19-year-old Senegalese is currently out injured, stuck in a mysterious limbo where nobody really knows his status. We’ve heard the odd whisper that various Serie B teams are interested in acquiring his services in January, but the injury muddies the waters; while Dikhate’s shown well at Moena for the past few years and was quite good with the Primavera last year, there’s no tape on him as a professional playing other professionals. Since his contract runs out at season’s end, Corvino seems uncertain about whether or not to extend him, given that nobody’s seen him play in months. Wouldn’t a few years on the B-team be a perfect solution for everyone involved?
CM Giuseppe Pandolfi: The 21-year-old is currently stuck on the bench at Pontedera and probably wondering how much gas his career has left; he’s been unable to break through for the past few years in Serie C. While he’s probably never going to be a star, he could well develop into a steady player in the third tier with the right coaching, capable of filling a bench role and holding down the fort in a pinch.
CM Amidu Salifu: The final over-age player in this group, Salifu is somehow just 26 years old. Playing in a B-team might not have prevented the series of catastrophic knee injuries he’s suffered, but it would have given him a familiar place (and familiar medical staff) to do his rehab assignments, slowly working his way back to health in a no-pressure situation without worrying about where his next move would be. As a role player with Arezzo this year, he’s just as capable of fulfilling that role on this theoretical team, and he’d bring some upper-tier experience as a former prodigy who fell back to earth.
CM Marco Berardi: The 22-year-old has turned in a couple of successful Serie C seasons, which makes it a bit surprising that he’s looking for work. His move to Südtirol last year didn’t work out well, as he made just 5 appearances, but the previous two seasons—49 appearances in the third tier—indicate that he’s a perfectly adequate option in the middle of the park, albeit not an exciting one.
RM Joshua Pérez: The 20-year-old American left Fiorentina on a free last year after a solid but uninspiring year at Livorno, where he failed to establish himself as anything more than an energy sub. He signed for hometown MLS club LAFC, who promptly loaned him to USL outfit Phoenix Rising (that’s Didier Drogba’s team). While he may have been eager to get back to California, it seems like a shame to lose out on a guy who scored or assisted 15 goals in 20 matches during his final stint with the Primavera, and who even made it onto the pitch during a Serie A match for Fiorentina. He’s another guy whom a B-team would serve brilliantly.
LM Riccardo Sottil: The 19-year-old is clearly a big part of Fiorentina’s plans going forward, as they kept him with the senior team this summer despite various loan offers from clubs all over Italy. However, it hasn’t quite worked out, as he’s firmly the 4th or 5th option on the wing and is stuck on the bench. Letting him play regularly certainly wouldn’t hurt his development, and would let club brass see how ready he is for the top flight.
CF Cedric Gondo: Another recent signing by Serie C newcomers Rieti, longtime Viola fans may recall the 21-year-old Ivorian hitman from his glory days with the Primavera—13 goals in 20 matches sticks in the mind. It’s been a bit downhill for him since, though, as stops in Italy and Greece have seen him score just 4 in 62 since. As a big, powerful target man, though, he’d be an excellent Plan B, and brings a bit of experience in the Greek top flight with Asteras Tripolis as well.
CF Martin Graiciar: Following an injury at the start of preseason training, the 19-year-old Czech never caught back up to fellow teenager Dušan Vlahović in race to be Giovanni Simeone’s primary backup. As a result, Graiciar’s been nailed to the bench all year; he played a half with the Primavera in September, and that’s been the extent of his game time. It’s a shame, as he’s a really talented prospect; last year, he scored 4 goals in 12 appearances with Slovan Liberec, and he’s perhaps the top player with the Czechia U19s right now, what with 10 caps and 3 goals. Playing with the reserves in Serie C would give him the burn he needs to keep developing; sitting the bench week in and week out isn’t going to help him much.
CF Jan Mlakar: The 20-year-old Slovenian certainly looked the part with the Primavera what with a return of 17 goals and 4 assists in 36 matches. Then he went to Venezia on loan, completely flamed out while stuck in a very deep group of strikers, and requested that Fiorentina release him so he could rejoin boyhood club Maribor. He’s come good there in a big way, scoring 7 and assisting 2 in 13 league matches, as well as 2 in 7 for the Slovenia U21s. While the Viola get a portion of proceeds from any future sale, it’d be a lot nicer to have a very promising player. Being able to send him to the B-team to learn, rather than to a Serie B club to sit on the bench for a whole year, would have been a good solution.
LW Simone Minelli: The 21-year-old was a stalwart on some excellent Primavera sides, highlighted by a 16 goal campaign in 2014-2015. A couple of boring campaigns in Serie C later have seen his rise stall out a bit, but he’ll certainly earn a lot of offers when he’s recovered from an ankle surgery that’s kept him out all year. As a former U20 star, he’s definitely worth keeping on the books.
LW Rafik Zekhnini: The 20-year-old Norwegian is chugging along nicely with Twente in the Dutch second division right now, but it’d be a lot easier to monitor him if he were a little closer to home. He remains one of the top prospects in the Viola system and would be an automatic starter most weeks in this imaginary team, which hasn’t been the case in Enschede.