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Loanee reports: Serie B

Let’s catch up with the young players who are a year or two away from the first team but are undoubtedly talented enough to arrive there eventually.

Italy U21 v Sweden U21 - UEFA Euro Under 21 Qualifier
Psst. I’m really good.
Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

For the firs time this year, we’ll drop in on the Fiorentina players who are in Serie B. These guys are young and close to first team relevance but need a bit more seasoning, which the rough-and-tumble second division should provide. Keep these names filed away, as they’ll likely feature in the first team within the next couple of years.

Michele Cerofolini (Reggiana)

The 21 year old goalkeeper took over as the Granata number one in training camp. He’s made some good saves, shown a solid command of his area, and generally impressed; for comparison’s sake, Massimiliano Alvini’s men have conceded a goal per match with Cerofolini between the sticks, but shipped 10 in the 2 matches he’s missed. While there’s obviously some more context there, it goes to show just how valuable the Italy U21 international has been.

With veterans Giacomo Venturi and Matteo Voltolini waiting in the wings, Cerofolini probably can’t afford too many slips, but he’s shown an aptitude for the craft that should stand him in good stead. While it’s not realistic to expect him to come back and vie with Bartłomiej Drągowski for the number one job in Florence next year, another couple of years in Serie B or the lower reaches of Serie A should let young Michele prove that he’s got a future with Fiorentina.

Stats: 7 appearances (7 starts), 630 minutes, 2 yellow cards, 7 goals conceded, 2 clean sheets

Goals: Just keep doing what you’re doing, big fella. It’s going great.

Gabriele Ferrarini (Venezia)

The 20 year old wingback has had a decent start in the second tier, but he’s pretty clearly behind Pasquale Mazzocchi in the pecking order. He’s earned a couple of starts and looked decent in both (his cross led to the decisive penalty for the win over Reggiana and he pinged in a lovey ball against Empoli), but probably hasn’t done enough to convince manager Paolo Zanetti to expand his role.

It’s not too surprising, given that this is just his second year out from the Primavera and he was in Serie C last year. The book on Ferrarini is pretty well known at this point: he’s got pace, stamina, and an eye for the killer pass on the overlap. The defensive side is what’s holding him back, as he needs to get stronger and learn to stay focused for the full 90 minutes. Since he’s so young, we’re completely confident that he will. He’s one of Fiorentina’s top young prospects and we’re very excited to track his career.

Stats: 3 appearances (2 starts), 219 minutes

Goals: Surpass Mazzocchi on the team sheet and improve on the defensive side; if he accomplishes that latter, he could genuinely push past Lorenzo Venuti next year.

Gabriele Gori (Vicenza)

The 21 year old striker has turned himself into a valuable rotational option at worst for the Lanerossi, although he’s only played the full 90 minutes once. He’s shown himself to be a bit streaky in front of goal throughout his career as a professional, though, so he could be in for a hot stretch at any moment. If nothing else, he’s proving that he belongs in Serie B after a solid campaign in Serie C last year. His holdup play, aerial prowess, and willingness to press make him a useful piece for any side.

The real question is if he can sharpen up in front of goal. Operating as the prima punta in manager Domenico di Carlo’s 4-4-2, his primary role is to knock down long passes for his strike partner and get on the end of crosses. The Berici boast one of the best attacks in the division, so it’s not a matter of needing chances; it’s more a matter of rounding them off. Given his style of play, he’ll only improve as he gets older, stronger, and more experienced. That means he’ll have to take some lumps before he’s ready to be the prolific hit man we believe he can be.

Stats: 10 appearances (6 starts), 481 minutes, 2 goals, 1 assist

Goals: Hit 12ish goals and stay outrageously handsome.

Julián Illanes (Chievo Verona)

The 23 year old Argentinean centerback has only played in the Coppa loss to Catanzaro, otherwise sticking to the bench for every league fixture this season. He seems to be the fourth choice central defender in the pecking order for Alfredo Aglietti, behind Maxime Leverbe, Guillaume Gigliotti, and Michele Rigione. Illanes also picked up a niggle in training this past week, but it probably won’t really impact his place in the team. With a contract running out at season’s end, he’s playing for his future as a pro.

Stats: 1 appearance (1 start), 120 minutes

Goals: Show enough to get a contract elsewhere, and good luck. It’s been a weird and underwhelming three years, but we wish you nothing but the best.

Luca Ranieri (SPAL)

The 21 year old defender had done well to establish himself as the top backup in the Estensi backline, playing in the Coppa Italia and a couple of league matches as well. Weirdly enough, his spot on the left of manager Pasquale Marino’s back three is currently occupied by Nenad Tomović, who’s played more minutes than any other player in the squad. Whatever Marino’s doing, it’s working, as SPAL boast the second-best defensive record in the division and sit in 2nd place.

In what seems to be a theme with this group, he’s also carrying a minor knock at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to be too serious and he should be back in action shortly. The trouble is that Tomović, Francesco Vicari, and Bartosz Salamon all have Serie A experience and could be tough to displace in the XI, so Ranieri may serve as more of a rotational option barring injuries. Given his stated desire to compete for serious minutes, that’s a perfect setup for him.

Stats: 5 appearances (4 starts), 440 minutes, 3 yellow cards

Goals: Push into the first XI, play well, and force your way into Fiorentina’s plans for next year as a top backup.

Aleksa Terzić (Empoli)

The 21 year old Serbian fullback seems to be enjoying his time down the road with the Azzurri. He’s grabbed a starting role and has looked pretty sharp thus far. Deployed on the left of manager Alessio Dionisi’s 4-3-1-2, Terzić has freedom to motor forward and add width to the attack. Blessed with an excellent left foot, he earned his first assist on opening day. While he hasn’t added to that tally, he’s had some good moments going forward.

The problem, of course, is that he hurt his ankle in training a couple of weeks ago and is likely to miss at least another week or two, which could allow creaking veteran Luca Antonelli or fellow youngster Fabiano Parisi to push for a role when he returns. However, it seems that he’s earned Dionisi’s trust and should regain his berth without too much fuss once he’s healthy again. More than anything, it’s just good to see him playing rather than rotting on the bench.

Stats: 9 appearances (9 starts), 779 minutes, 1 assist, 1 yellow card

Goals: Get healthy, take back a starting spot, improve defensively, and prove to the Fiorentina brass that you’re ready to back up Cristiano Biraghi next year.

Szymon Żurkowski (Empoli)

The 23 year old Polish midfielder missed the start of the season, first needing a minor surgery to correct an old issue and then testing positive for coronavirus. The upshot is that he’s played all of 11 minutes across 2 matches this season, but seems to be working his way back to fitness. Once he’s ready to go, he should compete for a starting role, with former Fiorentina prospect Filippo Bandinelli the man he’ll try to surpass on the left of manager Dionisi’s midfield 3.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the Big Z, who’s had nothing but trouble (largely not of his own devising) since arriving in Italy, but this could be the season he breaks through. Let’s not forget that he remains an extremely talented player and is under contract with the Viola until 2024, so he’s got plenty of time to come good. He also requested a return to Empoli, so he’s clearly in a place he feels comfortable and should be able to demonstrate that soon.

Stats: 2 appearances (0 starts), 11 minutes

Goals: Get healthy, stay healthy, and remind us why you were Poland’s top young midfielder just two years ago.