The question, “Who’s been Fiorentina’s most productive attacker over the past two seasons?” feels a bit like asking, “Who’s the liveliest corpse in the morgue?” However, I’ll ask you to bear with me through the sadness for a moment because there’s a purpose behind it, I promise. Let’s start out with the table below, because you know that I love making a table.
The Minute/Goals+Assists (yes, I know that’s not algebraically correct, but I have an English degree and I also don't care, nerd) is what we’re really looking at here. The lower the number, the more often a player contributes to a goal. I haven’t included penalties won or actions leading to own goals, which would skew the data very slightly, but hey, the world is an imperfect and incomplete place and we have to work with what we’ve got. Also, it’s my article and I get to decide.
Everything looks about as you’d expect for the first 9 rows. Federico Chiesa was extremely productive, particularly for a wide player often asked to play as a wingback. Dušan Vlahović has improved immeasurably and is getting to the coveted goal/assist every other game. Franck Ribery doesn’t ever score, which is a problem for a guy playing center forward. Patrick Cutrone was, as we all knew, actually quite productive. The other guys just make me sad.
Then you get down the that 10th row and your eyes pop out, because Tòfol Montiel is averaging 6 goals+assists per 90 minutes.
Okay, fine. I’ll add the qualifier. That’s obviously the result of a sample size as tiny as the man himself, and I don’t think anyone’s expecting him to keep that up. Those are the kinds of numbers you get playing FIFA against a literal infant. They make put Lionel Messi to shame. They make Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland cry. So why in the name of Octavio is Montiel stuck to the bench?
Part of that is because he’s built like a particularly svelte greyhound, and you worry that the Juraj Kuckas and Valon Behramis of the world would relish breaking such a delicate looking person. Tòfol’s inability to add muscle to his frame is a worry, as he’s spent two years in Florence without gaining any weight and, at 20 years old, badly needs some beef on him to keep from getting constantly bundled off the ball.
But c’mon, you can’t tell me he’s not worth a longer look. Montiel adds quickness, invention on the ball, and snappy combination play (pretty much the opposite of Ribery and his tactic of keeping the ball until everyone gets bored and leaves him alone) that should make him a natural complement to Gaetano Castrovilli and Sofyan Amrabat. He’s been outrageously productive for at youth level (19 goals and 11 assists in 44 appearances). He cost fully €2 million as an 18-year-old who’d never featured in the senior setup. His nickname is the Pearl of Mallorca, for crying out loud.
The list of caveats here is lengthy and, in the interest of saving space, incomplete. I understand that he’s tiny. I understand that I’m not in training with Prandelli, watching the players every day and figuring out which ones work well together. I understand that I’m not a professional coach or talent evaluator. I understand that I don’t know nothing about nothing.
But I also understand that Fiorentina are in the midst of yet another lost season featuring an attack full of guys who are old, guys who can’t put it together, and Dušan Vlahović. What is there to lose by unleashing Montiel to run at tired defenders for the second half every couple of weeks? It’s not like the Viola goalscoring machinery has been firing on all cylinders. Even Ribery, the second most effective attacker available on a per-minute basis, doesn’t contribute all that much on the scoresheet.
The absolute worst-case scenario here is that Montiel does exactly what Valentin Eysseric and Christian Kouamé have done: very goddamn little. Maybe there’s something else at play here (Montiel is a Ramadani client, for what it’s worth), as DS Daniele Pradè has spoken multiple times about trying to move the Spaniard out on loan this year, but Fiorentina aren’t afforded the luxury of carrying useless players right now. They’ve got a guy who’s done nothing but produce when he’s on the field. They’ve got some other guys who’ve done the exact opposite. The arithmetic is fairly simple. You take a moribund club with no spark in the final third, add a spark plug, and see what happens.
I’m not saying it’s time to give up on Kouamé, who’s still young and doesn’t look fully recovered from his knee injury. I’m not saying that Callejón and Eysseric and hell, even Aleksandr Kokorin can’t fulfill specific and useful roles over the next dozen games. I’m not even saying that Montiel needs to start every game. But if watching Kouamé trip over his legs while trying to control a long pass with a defender on his back, or Eysseric sprint at the speed of an obese Labrador to get into the box, or Callejón meander around the right wing with all the urgency of an exhausted tortoise, I want to see if Tòfol can do something more interesting. And statistically, he probably will. Because there’s a table up there to prove it, context and nuance be damned.