Lost in the celebrations about the win at AS Roma yesterday is the painfully bad display from winger Gil Dias. Brought on to provide a spark on the counter with his pace and dribbling, he instead torpedoed a pair of very promising breaks within moments of each other by getting the ball stuck under his feet while completely unmarked; to add to the indignity, Giallorossi goalkeeper Alisson beat him with a Cruyff turn a few minutes after that.
Performances like this are, sadly, not exactly surprising for the Portuguese U21 international. He’s had a few bright moments in purple—goals in each match against Hellas Verona, a wonderful solo run culminating with a drive off the post that could have put the Viola into the lead against Juventus—but more often, he seems on a completely different page than the rest of the team. He tries to dribble through the heart of the defense when a simple pass would be smarter, and then passes backward when he should try beating his marker.
Since Stefano Pioli has banished him to the bench, Fiorentina have won 6 straight. Obviously, there are a multitude of factors at play here, but it’s a damning correlation. It’s a shame, too, as Dias should be just what Pioli wants in a winger: pacey, explosive, dangerous off the dribble, and willing to have a pop when necessary. Instead, he’s fallen behind the likes of Valentin Eysseric (himself nobody’s idea of a starting-quality winger) in the pecking order.
But anyone can have a down season, especially his first one at a new club. After all, the adjustment between the Liga NOS and Serie A is quite significant, and we’re talking about a 21-year-old in a new country, learning a new set of tactics in a new language from a new coach with new teammates. Of course there are going to be some struggles. But the unpredictability of those struggles, and their grounding in a basic misunderstanding of what he should be doing, don’t bode well for his future in Florence.
Of course, as a Jorge Mendes client, Gil Dias was never destined for Fiorentina. Mendes clients tend to end up playing for clubs which pay astronomical wages (of which the agent takes a considerable cut), and the Della Valles’ stinginess about wages is hardly a secret. The deal which brought Dias to Tuscany, though, was a 2-year loan with €2 million due to parent club AS Monaco this past summer and a buyout clause of €20 million due after next season. That was always going to be a bit rich for the DV’s blood, but Dias is suddenly in a tough place.
The reason for such a high fee is obvious: Mendes and Monaco wanted Dias to play for a respectable club in a respectable league, work his way into the manager’s plans, and strut his stuff so they could earn more money from selling him. By setting the length of the loan at two years, they were betting that Dias would make himself indispensable and that the big bids would come flying in.
Instead, the rise of more homegrown options like Simone Lo Faso (yes, I know he’s not a Viola product), Rafik Zekhnini (ditto), Riccardo Sottil, Gabriele Gori, Joshua Pérez, Josip Maganjić, and Simone Minelli mean that Dias could see his chances to feature in the first time dwindle away rapidly, especially if Diego Della Valle opens the purse strings this summer and buys a top-class attacker as he’s hinted he might.
With playing time hard to come by, it wouldn’t be shocking if Fiorentina and Monaco agreed to end Dias’ loan early and shuffle the player off to what would be his 6th senior club. You have to feel for the youngster a bit: he’s never stayed with a team long enough to really get his feet under him, and he’s certainly got no shortage of talent. But that’s not really Fiorentina’s problem. Rather, the Viola need to make sure that they’re getting value for the roster spot, and if this season is any indication, they return on this investment hasn’t been sufficient to justify it.