Fiorentina, despite having far more talent on the books than a 13th place finish would suggest, has some big holes in the squad. The lack of depth in midfield, at the fullback spots, on the wings, and up front is likely enough to keep new manager Gennaro Gattuso up at night.
Viola sporting director Daniele Pradè, no stranger to shopping at the relegation bargain outlet, has plenty of decent options in Italy to help reinforce the roster. Parma, Benevento, and Crotone were all woeful for the entire year, but they’ve all got a surprising amount of talent. I’ve picked 3 players from each of those squads that I think would make sense, both financially and tactically, for Fiorentina. I haven’t necessarily gone for the guys I’d take (I love you, Bryan Dabo), but rather for players I think the Viola might actually spring for.
Dennis Man: The Ducali splashed a whopping €13 million on the 22-year-old winger in January, so they’d likely want a similar return. Man, though, is a full Romania international and will want to keep his place in the team ahead of the World Cup qualifying campaign, so he may be eager to leave. A full season loan with a fee due at the end of next year might be the ticket. Tactically, Man is a quick, direct player whose technique and vision would make him a natural fit cutting inside from the right, giving Ringhio a chance to replicate his success with Chucky Lozano at Napoli. It’d also be nice to close the transfer rumor circle from January.
Hernani: The 27-year-old Brazilian’s a bit of a late bloomer, having only made the jump to Europe in 2017 to Zenit St. Petersburg, but he’s looked quite good since joining Parma a couple years ago, including a 7 goal, 3 assist campaign last time out. The Ducali spent €5 million and signed him to a contract until 2024 at the start of the season, but Fiorentina can certainly offer more money and brighter lights. He’s more of a regista than a destroyer and would offer, at worst, a more technical option for Gattuso to try next to Sofyan Amrabat or Erick Pulgar in a double pivot. He’s the sort of low-risk, medium-reward signing that smart teams make all the time.
Yann Karamoh: Even though he’s just 22, it feels like the Ivorian’s been around forever. Inter Milan paid Caen €7 million for him in 2018, but he never convinced in Lombardy. While he’s certainly a bit erratic, he’s very quick, capable of playing anywhere in a front three, and doesn’t tend to get hurt. A deal could be tricky since he cost €8 million just a year ago, but he’s probably too good for Serie B. There aren’t many players his age with his top flight experience and physical gifts, so there’s no reason not to take a punt on him, especially in a reserve role. If nothing else, his sheer pace would offer Gattuso a dimension that’s completely missing from the Viola roster.
Perparim Hetemaj: At 34, the Finnish midfielder is approaching the end of his career. However, he still played 2212 minutes and started 27 matches, so he’s clearly got a bit left in the old legs. He’d also probably cost almost nothing and wouldn’t require much by way of salary. While he’s never played in such a technically demanding system as Gattuso’s looking to implement, Hetemaj’s an energetic allrounder in the middle and could be a solid and vastly experienced option to back up Amrabat and add some steel to the center of the park.
Roberto Insigne: There’s something pleasing about Gattuso swapping Insignes from Lorenzo to Roberto. The latter is 27 and has come into his own over the past few seasons, helping Parma then Benevento achieve promotion. A nippy, clever dribbler with a somewhat inconsistent end product, he’s not the sort of player Fiorentina should rely on to start, but he could make for a solid rotational option on the wing, especially since he’s worked under Maurizio Sarri at Napoli.
Gaetano Letizia: A 30-year-old reserve rightback isn’t the most exciting transfer proposition, but Letizia could offer a Vincent Laurini-esque option behind Lorenzo Venuti. He’s played several seasons in Serie A and his contract runs out in 2022, so he probably wouldn’t cost more than a couple million euros at most, especially after struggling with injuries all season (although he’d previously been admirably durable). The real question is if he’s good enough on the ball for Ringhio, who demands composure in possession from his fullbacks. If so, Letizia could offer a cheap and reliable backup option.
Simy: Simeon Tochukwu Nwankwo is going to be the most sought-after striker from a relegated team in quite some time, largely because he scored 20 goals in Serie A. At 198 cm/6’6, you might expect him to do all his damage on crosses, but he scored just 1 goal with his head this year. He likes using his strength to hold off opponents, settle the ball, and shoot. His stock will never be higher and his current contract runs out next year, so this is probably his chance for a massive payday. He may be too similar to Dušan Vlahović and may not have the pace or passing that Gattuso's looking for up front, but he’s too good a player to ignore, especially for what’ll likely be a discounted price.
Junior Messias: Another late-blooming attacker, the Brazilian was playing in Serie D and making ends meet as an appliance deliveryman at age 27, when the Squali scooped him up. He hasn’t looked back since, helping them to the top flight and turning in 9 goals and 4 assists. Comfortable anywhere across the front line but at his best on the right wing and cutting inside, he’s a compact dribbler with the sort of quick-twitch athleticism that makes it impossible for defenders to stay in front of him (second most dribbles completed in Serie A this year). He’s 30 and his deal expires in 2024, so he could be amenable to a move, and he should have the fitness, desire, and technique that Gattuso craves.
Niccolò Zanellato: The 22-year-old Italy U21 international is a solid midfield schemer, the sort of player who can set the tempo and move the ball forward through the lines. He’s quite unpolished on the defensive side, but it’s not hard to imagine him developing into a very good 6-or-7-out-of-10 midfielder, especially under Gattuso’s watchful eye. For Fiorentina, he’d serve as a backup, although he may be too similar to Youssef Maleh for Pradè to bite.