Following the announcement of Gennaro Gattuso as Fiorentina’s new manager, news has been relatively quiet on the Viola front. On the one hand, that’s not very surprising. Gattuso doesn’t officially become the new mister for a month, and the entirety of European football is on hold waiting for the European championships to begin. On the other hand, Gattuso joined Fiorentina with guarantees in terms of player recruitment and transfer budget, and there’s been little news of the players Gattuso wants for his new Fiorentina.
That is, until today. Fabrizio Romano tweeted that the Viola are chasing FC Porto duo Sérgio Oliveira and Jesús (Tecatito) Corona to strengthen the squad. 15 minutes later, Gianluca Di Marzio followed up with similar news, declaring Oliveira the “first-choice” for Fiorentina’s midfield.
Fiorentina are intentioned to open talks with FC Porto to sign Sérgio Oliveira and/or Jesús Corona - depending by the fee. New manager Gennaro Gattuso appreciates both Porto players but price tag will be high. #Fiorentina #FCPorto— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 1, 2021
Keep in mind Romano isn’t fool-proof for Fiorentina (he declared Daniele De Rossi as the new Viola manager last summer) but he’s still as reliable as they come. The Viola did have interest in De Rossi, and Romano was the first to report Pol Lirola’s loan move to Marseille last January. So, I’m going to accept this news as true.
Of the two players, Tecatito is not only the better player but would be the better fit with Gattuso’s Fiorentina. The 28-year-old came through the Monterrey academy in his home country of Mexico, making his professional debut in 2010. A move to FC Twente in the Eredivisie followed in 2013, and his performances during the 2014-15 season (nine goals and four assists in the Eredivisie) got him a move to Porto. Since then, Corona has established himself as one of the best players in Portugal, notching 31 goals and 68 assists in 269 appearances with the club.
One of Corona’s greatest assets is his versatility. Originally a right-winger, Corona can play anywhere along the right-hand side of the pitch, and his strong left foot allows him to play further up on the left as well. Given the rumors surrounding Pol Lirola’s return and the Viola’s desperate need for any attackers who can play out wide, I’d expect Tecatito to line up on the right-wing in Gattuso’s 4-2-3-1.
Corona is not just a versatile player. He’s also one of the most skillful dribblers out there. If you’re not convinced, just watch this video below, it does more justice than I could ever put into words.
Given Corona’s skill and versatility, it’s no surprise that a number of Europe’s top clubs, such as Chelsea and Inter Milan, have been linked with him recently. If Inter sells Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint Germain, Corona may be the best option to replace him on the market. In addition, any deal to sign him would almost certainly break the Viola’s transfer record, making me less convinced that such a deal would go through.
However, Corona is entering the final year of his contract, and if none of the aforementioned big clubs swoop for him, Fiorentina could be his last chance to prove himself in a top-five league. While I’m not sure if Fiorentina offers enough for him to leave Porto (and Champions league qualification), signing Tecatito would vault Fiorentina from a mid-table club to a dark horse for European qualification.
Meanwhile, I’m confused about the Oliveira links. That’s not to say the 28-year-old Portuguese international isn’t a great player. It’s been a breakout season for him, as he’s scored 20 goals (11 being penalties) and added seven assists from midfield in 48 appearances for the Dragões. He’s not only seen his Transfermarkt value double but also has forced his way into Portugal’s final 26-man roster for Euro 2020. That’s a hell of an achievement when you consider the quality on hand for the Seleção.
Fiorentina fans may remember him best for delivering one of the best moments of this past season’s Champions League, when his free-kick knocked Juventus out of the competition in the round of 16 for the second year running. In fact, Oliveira was good enough to land in the Champion’s League Team of the Season, the only representative from a non top-five league.
Oliveira has been with Porto nearly his entire career, having grown up in the suburbs of Porto itself. A two-year stint at Pacos de Ferreira from 2013-15 has been his only time away from the club. He’s been on loan throughout Europe, with stops as varied as Nantes in France and KV Mechelen in Belgium. Just two seasons ago he was playing on loan for PAOK in Greece, and only started 14 Primeira Liga matches last season. This year, he broke into Porto’s starting XI as hasn’t looked back, becoming a fan favorite in the process.
Oliveira’s playstyle is that of a creative #8, one who does his duty defensively but contributes mostly on the offensive end. While his passing percentage isn’t great, that’s largely due to what Sérgio Conceição asks him to do- thread line breaking through balls for players such as Tecatito to run on to. As this article explains excellently, Oliveira has 7.29 “deep progressions” (successful passes or carries into the final third) last season, in addition to being a heavy tackler and top-quality creator. Oliveira certainly has the quality to play in a top-five league, but a move to Fiorentina stumps me slightly.
Daniele Pradè has supposedly offered him a five-year contract, which is slightly worrying considering he turns 29 tomorrow. In addition, signing Oliveira makes it just about impossible for Gattuso to fit Sofyan Amrabat and Gaetano Castrovilli into the same lineup together. Beppe Iachini’s experimentation with Amrabat as a regista in the fall proved that the Moroccan’s best spot is where he thrived with Verona, as a ball-winning #8. That could work with Oliveira- given a proper regista such as Stefano Sensi or Diego Demme plays behind them. But then where would Tanino go? If this move happens, I’d wonder if Gattuso plans to use him on the left flank, which would be an under-utilization of his skillset. Or, given how he played this season, Gattuso may be perfectly comfortable with Castrovilli as a rotation option.
Finally, as mentioned above Oliveira is a Porto man through and through- and I’m not sure what the Viola have to offer him that would sway him, given that he just signed a five-year extension in December. However, there does seem to be a lot of smoke to this rumor, and Gattuso wanting him may be enough to get this deal across the line. Regardless, it’s good to see Fiorentina pursuing players slightly above their current level, as that’s what it will take for this club to return to Europe.