Nenad Tomović (Chievo Verona): The 30-year-old Serbian defender has settled right into life in Verona, where he’s quickly earned the trust of manager Rolando Maran, to the tune of 18 starts this year. He’s currently out with a thigh strain, but should be back next week. Maybe then we’ll finally see a backline comprising of Tomović, Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini, and Massimo Gobbi, with Andrea Seculin between the sticks. Anyways, it’d take something really strange to prevent the Flying Donkeys from activating Tommy’s clause at the end of the year, so we’re pretty certain we’ve seen the last of him in purple. We wish him nothing but joy with the Gialloblu.
Lorenzo Venuti (Benevento): The 22-year-old Italian rightback has endured a rough beginning to his first season in Serie A, although that’s true for the Stregoni as a whole. He’s remained a first-choice for new mister Roberto de Zerbi, although he’s deputized all over the pitch—from centerback to wide midfield to fullback—in his 20 league appearances. His athleticism has never been in question, but his defensive instincts have been tested and found wanting against bigger, faster opposition than Serie B. We still think he’ll grow up to be a solid player, but we may need to wait a bit longer for him to feature for the Viola; at this point, it’s hard to think he’d be an upgrade on the likes of Vincent Laurini or Bruno Gaspar.
Jaime Báez (Pescara): The 22-year-old Uruguayan attacker contrived to make 4 consecutive appearances after spending months on the bench, in the stands, or even with the U19s. It’s certainly an improvement, although he was again an unused sub last week against Salernitana. Perhaps, though, he’s finally earned a bit more responsibility: against Foggia in particular, he created a couple of good chances. However, he remains the sort of eternally frustrating player who, at this point, may never put it together. He’s got all the talent in the world, but somehow never brings it all to bear. His contract with Fiorentina runs until 2020, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pantaleo Corvino sell him for peanuts long before then.
Gaetano Castrovilli (Cremonense): The 20-year-old midfielder is in the process of seizing a starting berth for the Grigiorossi. He’s played all but 6 matches this year (not counting the pair he missed with the Italy U20s), notching a goal and an assist. We knew he was ready for Serie B after he made several appearances with Bari before the Viola snapped him up, but he’s definitely starting to put it all together. He’s got fantastic close control and is developing nicely as a passer. His good set piece delivery is an added bonus. At this stage, he’s more of a willing than an able defender, but give him some time. Again, he’s only 20, so let’s not expect to see him in Florence any time soon, especially since he’s still thin as a rail. Once he’s filled out a bit, though, he looks like the natural heir to Borja Valero in the midfield.
Kevin Diks (Feyenoord—Netherlands): The 21-year-old Dutch rightback is trending downwards at de Kuip. He hasn’t started a match since October and seems to be falling behind fellow youngster Bart Niewkoop. It’s an abrupt plummet for a player who was, just two years ago, considered one of the top prospects at his position in all of Europe. His development seems to have slowed down a lot, which may be the problem. He remains an impressive athlete, but the finer points of defending thus far have eluded him. We’re not too down on him, though, as a lot of players hit a similar wall at a similar age. While he’ll need some more seasoning, as many young defenders do, he has plenty of time to come good.
Gilberto (Fluminense—Brasil): The 24-year-old rightback has joined Brazilian giants Fluminense on loan for the year. He’ll compete for a starting spot with veteran Wellington Silva in a battle he should win. It’s unclear if Tricolor have an option to buy Gilberto at the end of the deal, but his future surely lies somewhere besides Florence. With some good performances—and a levelheadedness that’s often evaded him—he could sew up a permanent home in Rio de Janeiro. Of course, there’s plenty of time for him to do something rash, too, especially since he’s playing for a major rival of the club he turned out for last year, Vasco da Gama.
Martin Graiciar (Slovan Liberec—Czechia): The 18-year-old Czech striker just keeps doing what he do. With the HET Liga on break, his mid-season stats are 4 goals and an assist in 731 minutes, spread over 11 appearances, which is good for a goal or assist every 146 minutes. While it’s not exactly setting the world alight, it’s a good record for a kid who still can’t buy a beer in the US when he’s competing against grown men. He needs to learn a few new tricks to get open in the box—powerful back post runs are his bread and butter—and his link-up play could use some work, but he’s an absolute beast and we expect big things from him.
Carlos Sánchez (Espanyol—Spain): The 32-year-old Colombian midfield destroyer is settling into the setup right now and has made substitute appearances in both of the Periquitos’ since he joined them. Thus, we can safely say that things are working out well for la Roca, as he’s going to get more minutes in Barcelona than he would have in Florence, which should secure his place with the Cafeteros ahead of the World Cup. He’ll probably return to the Viola after the season, but the arrival of Bryan Dabo certainly casts his future in doubt. But enough sad stuff, because he also had a birthday last week, so feliz cumpleaños, Carlitos.
Andrés Schetino (Esbjerg—Denmark): The 23-year-old Uruguayan midfielder seems to have found life in Jutland pretty agreeable, as he’s started every match he’s been healthy for the Blue and Whites. That’s 9 appearances and a goal for those of you keeping track at home, and you can bet that manager John Lammers wants to keep him, as the former youth international’s absence via a thigh injury coincided with a rough patch for his team. While we don’t know how much it’ll take for Esbjerg to buy him outright at the end of the season, we imagine that the clause is pretty low. If they do choose to let him go, he’ll be a free agent, as his contract runs out this summer.