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Despite the rumors, Fiorentina shouldn’t ditch Cutrone

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Unless there’s a massive, proven upgrade available, Cutrone’s as good as the Viola are likely to get without overspending this summer.

ACF Fiorentina v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Patrick Cutrone has had himself a year. After being forced out of boyhood club AC Milan to Wolverhampton Wanderers, he found himself on the bench at Molyneux. A return to Italy with Fiorentina on loan started fruitlessly with just 1 goal in 11 appearances. He contracted the coronavirus. And then, after the restart, he burst into life, tallying 4 goals and assist in his final 10 appearances, good for a goal involvement every 95.6 minutes. That’s how you finish strong.

Now, though, the hellhounds of the transfer window (okay, a bunch of anonymous sources leaking reports to the Gazzetta dello Sport) believe that the Viola could ship him to Genoa. Besides being a pleasant reminder of the Cesare Prandelli era, back when the Rossoblù’s sole transfer policy seemed to be pursuing Fiorentina players or targets, it’d be an absolute coup for the Grifoni, who desperately need a striker to replace Christian Kouamé (whoopsies) and AARP member Rodrigo Palacio.

This doesn’t really make any sense for so many reasons, the most obvious of which is that Cutrone is on loan at Fiorentina. If Genoa want him, there are only two options and both involve triangulating with Wolves, which adds extra layers of complexity. The first option is for Fiorentina to purchase him now instead of deciding next summer, then sell him to Liguria. That’s patently absurd because Wolves would doubtless want the full fee (something around €22 million), and Fiorentina would then need a plusvalenza to make all that trouble worth their while. Is Genoa ponying up something close to €30 million? Seems unlikely.

The second option for Fiorentina to terminate his loan deal a year early, send him back to the West Midlands, and let Genoa open negotiations. Besides the likely financial penalties the Viola would incur, it would leave the striking options for next year very limited. Kouamé’s excellent, yes, and Dušan Vlahović has all the potential in the world, but neither has demonstrated an ability to carry the scoring load for a full season in Serie A. Kouamé might be ready to do so—were it not for a freak cruciate injury on international duty last year, he may have done it already—but it seems doubtful that the Viola brain trust would put all its eggs in that basket.

With regards to Cutrone, the criticisms of him are well-known. He’s not particularly good in the build-up play and lacks the pace to threaten in behind, the technique to beat a man with the ball at his feet, the vision to pick a pass, or the strength to hold up play. He drifts in and out at times and can’t score except from close range. He never performs against the bigger teams.

That narrative has kernels of truth but misses the bigger picture. While his holdup play and decision-making on the break are very limited, his defensive work rate is exemplary and adds a lot to a team whose identity is to make it tough on opponents to score. He’s not creative or technical, sure, but his movement off the ball creates space for teammates in a way that nobody else on the roster does. And if he’s a flat track bully, only scoring on smaller teams, that’s fine. Fiorentina failed to score against Brescia, Lecce, and Genoa (three of the bottom four teams). Having a guy who can find the back of the net against bad teams is very valuable, especially for a mid-table outfit like these Gigliati.

The only possibility that allows for Cutrone to move to Genoa (or anywhere) is that Fiorentina bring in a proven striker who fits the system. Andrea Belotti has been the most popularly-linked name, and he’d certainly be worth the trouble to ship Patrick elsewhere. Someone like Borussia Monchengladbach’s Alessane Pléa or Villarreal’s Paco Alcácer would fit that description too.

Belotti, Pléa, or Alcácer would represent proven upgrades to Cutrone. Moving him so the club can chase Krzysztof Piątek or Arkadiusz Milik, who are perhaps marginally better, would be a lot of effort and cash spent on minimal squad improvement, and that’s without factoring in Cutrone’s established presence within the Viola squad; he seems like a fun, easy-going character who’s already established a rapport with stars like Kouamé and Federico Chiesa. Blowing that up isn’t a great idea for a club that’s dealt with fractious dressing rooms in the recent past.

This mercato is already going to be crazy enough. The dates are all wrong and nobody’s sure how to determine player values. Zooming in on Fiorentina, the club has other areas to focus on rather than some byzantine, lateral deal for strikers. Upgrading the wingbacks has to be a top priority, as does hanging onto guys like Chiesa and Nikola Milenković. Unless there’s a chance to get a 20-goal striker, any effort to swap Cutrone for another striker of similar ability is just digging a hole in the sand: a lot of effort for no real payoff.