There are plenty of interesting storylines surrounding the Fiorentina roster right now. What is going on with Pol Lirola? Why did the Viola offer Marco Benassi a contract extension with noone noticing? Will our Captain, German Pezzella, ever play in purple again? Where are the reinforcements in the mercato to turn this team into a European contender? And most importantly, will Vincenzo Italiano be able to transform this team into his own image before the Serie A season kicks into full gear?
That’s a lot of questions, but none are the reason why Fiorentina has been popping up in the press the last couple of days. Rather, this new attention is due to star striker Dušan Vlahović. Interest from big clubs is looming while Fiorentina scrambles to sign him to a lucrative contract extension.
On the one hand, there’s optimism coming from the Viola camp. Various reports have the Viola on the home stretch of a new deal, with Dušan reported to have agreed on a salary in the €3-4 million range. That’d put him as the highest earner at the club by a fair margin, but the salary alone is not enough to woo him. Vlahović and his agent, Darko Ristic, also want a release clause inserted in the contract. Reports differ on this front. Some say it’s already been agreed (in the €70 million range), but the two sides don’t agree on when it should become active. Others say it remains the main sticking point between Dušan and renewing at Fiorentina.
Regardless, as fans, we all want Dušan to stay at Fiorentina. He’s the best player on the team. It certainly wasn’t an easy road, but watching his attitude transform from a whiny teenager to that of a determined winner over the last has been gratifying and motivating to see.
However, as expected when a player matches their age in goals, some of Europe’s top clubs are circling for his services. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Atletico Madrid have emerged as the three most serious bidders in recent days, according to Gianluca Di Marzio and a host of other reporters. Some are even saying that Spurs and Atletico are prepared to bid the €70 million necessary to pry Dušan away from Rocco Commisso.
Should a bid of that magnitude arrive, in a vacuum I’m accepting it without a second thought. While Vlahović has all the tools to be a truly special player, one good season doesn’t justify that price tag. Should he replicate that form again this year, sure, but if I were a rival club I wouldn’t see him as worth more than €50 million.
With that cash, Fiorentina could invest in... say Andrea Belotti, another Nico Gonzalez-level winger, and a top-class regista while still breaking even for this mercato. Add in a like-for-like Milenkovic replacement, and that’s a better team on paper than the current squad.
My issues come down to who is spending that money, and those people I don’t exactly trust. We’ve already heard Di Marzio say Gianluca Scamacca is an option as a Vlahović replacement, which would leave me thoroughly whelmed. In addition, our owner is loaded. We could make those signings without running into FFP trouble and keeping Dušan.
Of course, should an offer of that magnitude come in, it’s up to him to accept or decline. At that point, it’d be clear there are two options: to renew, or not to renew. Let’s try and look at this from Dušan perspective to see what makes the most sense.
Dušan currently on a measly €800,000 per season. If he can quintuple that, I’m sure a much nicer Tuscan villa awaits. Maybe throw in a Ferrari, too. But seriously, imagine being 21 years old and knowing that your fallback option is becoming a multi-millionaire overnight.
He’s loved here
This should count for something. The world of a football can be a cold, dark, place, most of all when you’re not performing. Vlahović knows this more than anyone. I’m sure many of you commenters would cringe at some of your takes last fall when discussing his gameplay. He’s obviously pushed past this, but the next level up is a whole new world where supporters are less forgiving than Fiorentina fans. More eyes = more scrutiny, and by staying Vlahović can continue to focus on his game while not worrying about the outside noise and getting used to being the center of attention. That would be my biggest selling point were I Rocco Commisso.
He finally has some support
While I don’t trust Prade or Barone, they have made one great move this summer. Nico Gonzalez will give defenses something else to think about other than Dušan, and once Ricky Sottil breaks out Fiorentina will have one of the best tridents in Serie A. Factor in a resurgent Gaetano Castrovilli, and this team has the potential to provide him much more than Bart’s punts, which while beautiful, aren’t high-opportunity chances. Add in a couple of smart mercato purchases and there’s a much better supporting cast than last season. The better Fiorentina is, the better chances he re-signs.
He can do better
I’m stretching this a bit by including Atletico Madrid in here, which is the team I’d most want to see him join should he leave. But he should go nowhere near Arsenal, and Spurs is a pretty “meh” option. We’ve all seen the talent he has, and to be fair to all three of those clubs, someone like a Bayern Munich, Manchester City, or Real Madrid will have funds next summer and be in need of a striker. Should he replicate last seasons’ form, every top club would want him for that €70 million pricetag, and he’d skip the step of a stepping stone club.
Why not renew?
Yeah, this cancels out. Looking at the wage structures of the clubs interested, it seems Dušan would slot in at a similar wage level as his reported extension.
His stock may never be higher
This isn’t what Fiorentina fans want to hear, and I don’t think is the case. But there’s always the chance that last season was Dušan’s peak. After all, Serie A defenses are now going to start game-planning around him in a way he didn’t have to worry about last season. If he scores 8 goals and misses some bigs chances next season (shudder), there’s a better chance West Ham are in for him than Atletico. Take the chance while you can.
It’s a massive step up
yeah, Spurs and Atletico may not be the creme de la creme, but they’re both part of the 12 most super clubs in the world. Aka, they’re pretty damn good, and if I were Dušan, playing in the Champions League alongside Luis Suarez on Wednesdays has its perks over the Coppa Italia. These opportunities rarely come up for any footballer, and we saw how desperate Cristian Romero was to join Spurs despite them playing in the Europa Conference League. Every player wants to play at the top level, and Vlahović gets closer by not renewing and moving.
Volatile organization recently
The fact that Vlahović is even open to renewing surprises me. In the last two seasons, the Viola have swapped managers five times and consistently underwhelmed in the mercato. This volatility also applies to the front office, as Luca Antognoni and Dario Dainelli have left this offseason. This team isn’t yet ready for Europe, and if you’re Dušan, why stick around?
So, should he stay or not? I’m pretty torn. There are valid points in both categories, and I still don’t have my mind made up. But because I hate articles like that, for the sake of my homerism I’ll say yes, he should. If any of you have strong opinions let me know in the comments below.
Just a week or two ago, I saw the likeliest outcome for Vlahović being the same as Nikola Milenkovic last summer. Refusing to sign an extension, then being sold next summer for less than we could’ve gotten now. Today, however, it seems like the rubber is hitting the road. Either Dušan will sign an extension and stay for at least one more season, or he’ll be gone and we’ll only have the memories to cherish.