Nicolás González is a Fiorentina player. We’re obviously really, really excited about him. After all, he’s a 23-year-old Argentina international and the Viola’s record signing. There’s no reason to not be excited. At this point, though, it’s a matter of figuring out why we’re excited. To figure that out, we’ll run down a few things and then bring in some experts.
To start with, let’s touch on some basics. González has earned his nickname of el Bicho: he’s an outrageously quick attacker, capable of stop-starting past defenders like a waterbug. His long speed and his quick-twitch movements are really impressive. To that absurd athleticism, he adds good technique and intelligent movement. Basically, he’s got everything you want.
His stats from last year are a bit deceptive, as he spent a lot of time playing center forward for Stuttgart; since he’ll likely slot in on the wing in Florence, the numbers aren’t actually as helpful to figure out how he’ll perform in the Artemio Franchi next year. The general understanding is that he’s a quick, direct winger who’s at his best on the counter, which makes him the natural heir to Federico Chiesa.
Since that’s a deeply unsatisfying bit of analysis, we’ll turn to a genuine Bundesliga Knower. Please welcome Jake Fenner, Writer and Director of Podcasting at Bavarian Football Works, who’s both oodles more knowledgeable about the German game than I am and also very cool.
Viola Nation: Aside from his sheer pace, what stands out most about González a player? For a Viola side starved of dynamism, particularly in the wide areas, what’s he going to bring?
Jake Fenner: Gonzalez is really a dynamic attacker in more ways than one. In baseball they have the term “five tool player” to describe someone who can complete the most important tasks in the sport the best. To me, Gonzalez is a five tool attacker. His pace is arguably his greatest asset and it has burned many a Bundesliga defender. He has skill moves that will stand out on the pitch, prime example being a goal from earlier this season against Hoffenheim.
His passing skills have only gotten better as Stuttgart’s midfield has grown more and more powerful over the past few years and he’s known to spring a man free (see the third Stuttgart goal in their 4-1 win over Augsburg.
His finishing is sublime and he’s been known to score from multiple different angles. But one of the sneakiest aspects of his game has to be his heading ability. Of his 6 goals for Stuttgart this season, two of them came from headers. At 5’11’ he’s perfectly tall enough to get headers, but he finishes them off with a clinical ability that is better than most.
VN: He played most of last year as a striker, but he’ll likely play out on the wing for Fiorentina like he does for Argentina. Do you think he’s better through the middle or out wide?
JF: It was a tough season for him last year. Going into the season, I think most people projected that Gonzalez was going to be the top striker for Stuttgart. But, with the rise of Austrian striker Sasa Kalajdzic the importance of having Gonzalez up top somewhat waned. That’s really why you saw him deployed as a winger from time to time. Personally, I think he’s more than capable of playing both positions, but thanks to his abilities in the air, I really feel his best talents lie in the middle.
VN: Does he have any weaknesses? The injuries are probably the most concerning thing, but is there anything else?
JF: Outside of a small tendency to hog the ball, the injuries will really be his biggest weakness. He’s only 23 years old, so it might be a while before we find out what his true strengths and weaknesses are. But, those leg injuries he’s suffered may cause a small setback in his abilities.
VN: For €27 million (or more, depending on the incentive clauses), González is Fiorentina’s record signing. While the market’s natural inflation is a pretty obvious piece of it, do you think he’s worth it?
JF: I do. Let’s take a few things into account: firstly, he’s 23 years old. What Fiorentina is getting in Gonzalez is a bet that he will improve in the future. All signs point toward that being the case. It should also be stated that Fiorentina is buying Gonzalez off a down season. He only managed 6 goals and 2 assists in 15 Bundesliga games before going down with a muscle injury in mid-February. The season before then, he bagged 14 goals and 3 assists in a more respectable 27 games. As he heals over the summer, I can see him returning to those greater numbers and after some adjustment, I think people in Fiorentina may be looking at that price tag as a possible steal.
Oh, did you think we were done? Ha HA, we’re never done. Here’s VN irregular and South American correspondent extraordinaire Nolan KB weighing in.
“He’s definitely exactly the kind of player that we are solely lacking. Argentina produces that type of forward/winger in bulk and he’s a standout example of it, think in the Di Maria or Lamela role with maybe even more versatility. Able to dribble at a a high speed, good movement and link up skills, can play on either side or in the middle, definitely needs to work on his finishing though - he has the tools, he has a shot and does shoot a lot but seems to lack composure in the box.
“There’s still people who describe him as a potential striker and he did get compared to Mario Kempes by his Argentinos Juniors coach, but I don’t see it - I see him as more of a side forward in a 3 man pivot or a second striker, using him as either a CF or a deeper lying winger would not make the most of his dribbling, pace changes, and medium ranged shooting. In Italiano’s hypothetical 4-3-3 the combination of Nico, Vlahovic (hopefully), and either Ribery or a new signing would be very encouraging.”
Thanks, Jake! Thanks, Nolan! This all sounds like exactly the sort of player we can get excited about, and heaven knows that Fiorentina fans could use something to be excited about right now.