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10 players who have everything to prove at Moena

A new coach for a new season means these guys could have a new start.

Tofol Montiel of ACF Fiorentina looks on during the pre-... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

As Fiorentina prepare to head for Moena (Saturday 17 July to Saturday 31 July), there are definitely some members of the squad with a lot more to gain than others. We’ve already talked about the guys on the roster who look to be surplus to requirements, but here’s a list of 10 players who could cement their places in the first team with a strong camp.

Marco Benassi

Want to feel very strange? Benassi is 26 years old. It feels like he should be closer to 35, given everything that’s happened since he joined the Viola in 2017 for €12 million. While he certainly had some success in Tuscany—leading scorer in 2018-2019—his limitations saw him fall out of favor and get a loan to Hellas Verona last year. The Mastini didn’t trigger the option to buy him because he missed the entire season with an injury (which feels a little bit hinky), but his goal threat from midfield could see him earn a role under Vincenzo Italiano. If not, his contract runs out in 2022, so he’ll be auditioning for future employers.

José Callejón

Signed last summer as a replacement for Federico Chiesa, the Napoli legend was, uh, vastly underwhelming. While his fit in Giuseppe Iachini’s 5-3-2 was always going to be a problem, he was equally woeful under Cesare Prandelli. Now 34, there’ve been some rumors that Maurizio Sarri wants him at Lazio. A strong showing against the likes of Ostermünchen, Polisportiva Foligno, Levico Terme, and VirtusVecomp Verona. Okay, maybe that’s not enough, but he’s the most experienced winger in the side and could prove a very useful mentor to and backup for Nicolás González and Riccardo Sottil.

Alfred Duncan

The €11 million signing from Sassuolo is the anti-Benassi in some ways: unlike Marco, Alfred’s always produced when given chances on the pitch but has still been ignored by successive managers. He was brilliant under Eusebio di Francesco and Roberto de Zerbi for the Neroverdi, and both those guys have systems similar to Italiano’s; that could mean that the Ghanaian midfielder (and absolutely wonderful human being) could earn himself a spot in the XI with a good showing.

Alkesandr Kokorin

Since arriving for €4.5 million last January, the Russian felon has been a bit of a punchline. He totaled all of 91 minutes last year and didn’t show anything besides a penchant for injuries, which knocked him out of over half the games he could’ve played in. Probably signed on the strength of recommendations from Roberto Mancini and Luciano Spalletti more than any sporting merit, we’ve heard that clubs in Russia and the Persian Gulf are interested in him. If Kokorin is serious about contributing to the Viola, this is probably his final chance to demonstrate his worth.

Youssef Maleh

Unlike the previous entries on this list, the 22-year-old is brimming over with untapped potential. He was one of Venezia’s best players in their promotion campaign and stepped up in a big way through the playoffs. Blessed with fitness and technique, he may need to add a bit of strength, but he looks like a fantastic vice-Gaetano Castrovilli too. The Arancioneroverdi have reportedly reached out about bringing him back for another year on loan, so his performance in preseason will likely determine if he spends next season in Florence or Venice.

Tòfol Montiel

The forgotten man in Fiorentina’s attack last year, the Pearl of Mallorca was, as ever, outrageously productive in his outrageously limited minutes. He’s got a pillowy-soft touch, a knack for skipping past robust challenges, and a wand of a left peg; those should be qualities that endear him to Italiano, but his inability to win over any of Vincenzo Montella, Iachini, or Prandelli (as well as his status as a Pantaleo Corvino signing) means that his Viola career is probably hanging by a thread despite his jawdroppingly obvious talent.

Luca Ranieri

The 22-year-old defender’s in a tough spot. He’s probably at his best on the left of a back three but can fill in capably in the middle or the left of a back four as well. That applies to Igor, who’s probably a better player right now, as well. But with Cristiano Biraghi and Aleksa Terzić already at leftback, and Lucas Martínez Quarta and Christian Dalle Mura are already lurking for that central role. Ranieri is undoubtedly talented and has spoken about wanting to play significant minutes at this stage of his career, so he’ll need to nail down a position ASAP if he wants to avoid another loan move.

Riccardo Saponara

The Cheese is, in some ways, the most romantic player Fiorentina’s seen in years. The problem, of course, is that his physical limitations mean he doesn’t fit as well in the modern game. That said, he was quite good under Italiano at Spezia last year, and we’ve heard some whispers that the mister wants him to reprise that wide playmaker role. I’ve written at absurd length (mouse over those previous 5 words for proof) about how much I love Ricky, so I do kind of hope he balls out in Moena and, at age 29 (!), earns himself a role this year, even if it’s not all that likely.

Aleksa Terzić

After a very impressive season at Empoli, the Serbian has to be eying a berth in Florence next year. While we’ve heard that the leftback role could open up this summer—Cristiano Biraghi’s been linked to an exit—the 21-year-old former Crvena zvezda winger probably isn’t ready to step in as the full-time starter yet. However, his obvious physical and technical gifts mean that he could be a very good backup. All he has to do is prove that he’s not worse than uh Antonio Barreca, and that shouldn’t be too hard. Still, since he’s only played fullback for a couple of years, the brass might see him as needing another year of seasoning before he’s ready for the first team.

Szymon Żurkowski

As is distressingly common for Poles in Florence, the Big Ż hasn’t had an easy time so far. After failing to crack the rotation under Stefano Pioli, he went to Empoli on loan last year. He returned this year but dealt with injuries and coronavirus, which prevented him from fully establishing himself. He still scored twice and contributed energy and class to the neighbors’ engine room. With the Viola midfield looking quite unsettled, a strong session in the Dolomites could see him earn a role with the big boys. If he doesn’t, it’ll be another year on loan unless someone makes a big offer, which isn’t likely. He’s a really good player and just needs a chance; hopefully, he’ll earn it with Fiorentina next year.