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Final loanee reports: Serie B

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1 out of 3 ain’t that bad.

Italy U20 v England U20 - 8 Nations Tournament
Not the last you’ll see of Castrovilli in an Italy shirt.
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Jaime Báez

Recap: The 23-year-old Uruguayan attacker moved to Pescara back in August. Despite costing Fiorentina €2.3 million as a 19-year-old back in 2015, he’s never really caught on in Italy. Possessed of pace, stamina, and skill on the ball, his decision-making is, quite frankly, bad. In his previous two stops—Livorno and Spezia—he started the year as part of the first team, but saw his role diminish until he was rarely in the squad by season’s end. This move to Pescara certainly seemed his last hope, and it was a good one: after all, if you’re a versatile attacker with pace and fitness, Zdenek Zeman is the perfect manager.

It didn’t work out that way. Zeman rarely used the Uruguayan; indeed, Báez was exiled to the Delfini Primaverar for 3 weeks in October. Even two managerial changes weren’t enough to save him, although current boss Giuseppe Pillon at least used him as an energy sub towards the end of the year. Still, though, Báez didn’t show anything besides sound and fury. He runs around a lot, but never seems to know what to do or where to be. His shooting and passing haven’t improved. He’s still the same player he was 3 years ago.

Stats: 14 appearances (2 starts), 1 yellow card

What’s next: His contract runs until 2020, but I’m confident in saying that we’ve seen the last of Jaime Báez in Florence. Even if he drifts around Serie C for another year or two on loan, he’ll almost certainly return to Uruguay in hopes of kick-starting a career that once showed so much promise (21 caps for the Uruguay U20s) but hasn’t ever come close to fulfilling it.

Grade: F Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Good luck wherever you end up next.

Gaetano Castrovilli

Recap: The 21-year-old midfielder is considered one of the best Italian prospects in his age group; 2 goals in 5 appearances with the U20s will do that for you. He’d already made a handful of appearances in Serie B with boyhood club Bari, so it made perfect sense to send him back to that level on loan. Cremonese, his destination, was a perfect setup: having just achieved promotion from Serie C, they were in desperate need of midfield creativity.

Castrovilli announced himself to the Grigiorossi faithful with this absolute cracker in his debut off the bench.

Despite some impressive performances off the bench, he didn’t become a regular starter until February, although he stuck in the XI after that. A late-season muscular injury knocked him out for most of the final month, but isn’t a real concern going forward. New manager Andrea Mandorlini opted to move him out to the left wing, where he showcased his skill with some excellent crossing and shooting from distance. Overall, it was a very successful campaign for the young ma from Canosa. As he’s a creator, not a ball-winner, it’s likely he’ll look even better in a team which allows him a slightly more open role than relegation-threatened Cremonese.

Stats: 28 appearances (16 starts), 1 goal, 4 assists, 3 yellow cards

What’s next: He may be ready for a few cameos with the Viola next year, but it’d be a lot better for everyone involved to send him somewhere he’ll be playing a lot of minutes. To me, that looks like either a lower-half Serie A side in need of creativity in the middle (SPAL and Cagliari come to mind) or a promotion-chasing Serie B side.

Grade: B Would have been nice to see him seize the starting job a bit sooner, but he clearly demonstrated that he’s an asset in any role.

Luca Zanon

Recap: The 21-year-old leftback joined Ternana in a loan-to-buy deal, but with a buyback option for Fiorentina. He enjoyed a good year at Pistoiese last term in Serie C, so a return to Serie B—he had a brief and unproductive stint at Virtus Entella 2 years ago—made sense. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out for him in Terni, either. Both the managers he played under seemed to favor 3 at the back; Zanon, who lacks the strength and instincts to play in a back 3 and lacks the technical ability of a wingback, was rather frozen out by their tactics.

However, his inability to secure any meaningful playing time—his 2 appearances to end the year were probably a function of the club trying to evaluate him and figure out if it’s worth paying the clause to buy him—indicate that he quite simply may not be cut out for a level above Serie C at this point. There’s no shame in that, of course; anyone who can earn a living as a professional athlete is doing something right. However, Zanon just looks like he lacks too many qualities to follow that career at the highest levels.

Stats: 7 appearances (2 starts), 1 yellow card

What’s next: If Ternana does opt to buy him outright, that’ll be the last we see of him. If they decide not to, expect to see young Luca on another loan-to-buy move elsewhere next season. His contract runs out in 2019, so he’ll only be on the Viola books for another year at most.

Grade: D- Sorry, Luca. It just wasn’t meant to be.