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What is going on with Milan Badelj?

Is he coming? Is he going? Is he standing on one leg and singing “When Father Painted the Parlor?”

ACF Fiorentina v Benevento Calcio - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

In what’s becoming an annual tradition, Fiorentina have arrived at the start of the mercato with no clue as to what might happen with Milan Badelj. His contract runs out on June first, but he has the option to extend it for another year. Although his former agent Dejan Joksimović spent two years railing against Viola management in favor of a move away, Badelj replaced him this year with Alessandro Lucci, who’s proven to be much more circumspect. But with the deadline fast approaching, nobody (except for maybe the midfielder himself) knows what’s going on.

It’s certainly a sticky situation for Pantaleo Corvino. On the one hand, it’d be a bit embarrassing to lose yet another captain—this would make 4 years running that the man with the armband had left town—and Badelj is one of the most important players in the side. His intelligence in both defense and possession provides the team with some desperately-needed calm in the center of the pitch. His game is rarely spectacular; more often, he’s the one recovering the ball ahead of the defense (his 2.7 interceptions per 90 minutes was 2nd among Serie A midfielders) and making a simple pass to a teammate in space. Always available for a back pass to keep the ball moving around, he was the axle around which Fiorentina rotated all year.

On the other hand, he’s 29 years old, making him the second-oldest Viola player after Cyril Théréau. He’s also set to represent Croatia at the World Cup; a few good performances could see the mega-rich clubs proffer major cash for him, as he’s the kind of player who thrives in a star-studded midfield. By shielding the defense, winning the ball, and feeding it to his midfield colleagues Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić, Badelj could wind up as the subject of offers from England and Germany again.

That’s the other thing. A host of big clubs have come calling for him in the past. In Italy, Inter Milan, AS Roma, and AC Milan (although they’re probably not looking to buy right now) have all come calling in the past. In England, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have voiced their interest. In Spain, Valencia and Sevilla have been the main suitors. With so many deep pockets bidding, Corvino could drive Badelj’s price way up.

But that’s only if the Croat extends his contract by a year. Otherwise, he’ll be a free agent this summer, and somebody will get a reliable, predictable, and quite good midfielder for free. Frankly, we think that’s the most likely outcome, especially since he’s a Pradè signing, and Corvino has demonstrated time and again that he wants those gone. While we’re holding out hope that Badelj signs a multi-year extension, or at least re-ups for a year so that the Viola can turn a profit from his exit, he’ll probably bow out this summer for nothing, with little fanfare, and leave the purple midfield in a proper mess.