Let’s go back a few weeks back in time to see some wheels in motion. Lazio signed Hellas Verona’s promising young central defender Marash Kumbulla. Fiorentina were linked with Gialloblu defender Alan Empereur. Hellas seem to be pushing for Viola centerback Federico Ceccherini. And, to round all this out, now Fiorentina have (according to Gianluca di Marzio and various other sources) found Cecche’s replacement in River Plate star Luca Martínez Quarta.
Dizzy yet? That’s okay. Settle yourself down for a moment while we introduce you to Martínez Quarta. The 24-year-old looks like a perfect fit for the outside of a back three. He covers ground pretty rapidly and has the short area quickness to stay with wingers. He’s a bit shorter than your average central defender at 180ish cm (a shade under 6’0) but it’s worth pointing out that he’s short, not small, and uses his strength well. More than anything, though, he’s really good on the ball, both carrying it forward and spraying it around the pitch.
He’s also been linked with Inter Milan and AC Milan, but it sounds like the Viola have the inside track. While he’s been touted as a replacement for Nikola Milenković, the height difference makes it tough to imagine a like-for-like swap, as it would change Fiorentina’s approach significantly. As a replacement for Ceccherini, though, Martínez Quarta would be perfect: young, versatile, and good on the ball while possessing the ability to defend in space. Especially if Martín Cáceres suffers an injury (we all hope he won’t, but he’s been remarkably knock-free in Florence for someone with his history), Martínez Quarta could seamlessly fill in, assuming that Giuseppe Iachini remains cold on Igor.
The only stumbling blocks here are closing the Ceccherini sale to Hellas and LMQ’s price. The former would likely be a loan with a fee in the €5 million range. While we’d be sad to see an excellent squad player like Cecche leave, it’d be nice to see him get a starting role somewhere, as he’s much better than he’s often given credit for and would likely thrive under Ivan Jurić in Verona.
The price is the real issue here. Martínez Quarta has €22 million release clause in his contract with River, and that is a big dang pile of money for Daniele Pradè to throw at a guy who’ll likely begin his Viola career as a backup. The only mitigating factor here is that LQM’s deal runs out next year, so River may be willing to listen to lower offers if they’re worried about losing him for nothing at season’s end.
In short, this seems like a perfect deal for the Viola, provided a few dominoes fall in the right directions. Pradè isn’t the wrong guy to give them a gentle push, either, so maybe we can start getting ready for another outstanding Argentinean central defender in Florence. That’s been a tradition at this club for the better part of a decade (Gonzalo Rodríguez, Germán Pezzella) and Lucas Martínez Quarta looks like the right guy to keep it going.