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Counting down Fiorentina’s top Primavera prospects: 5-1

Coming soon to a Stadio Artemio Franchi near you, maybe?

FC Internazionale v ACF Fiorentina - Primavera 1 Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

After taking a look at some of the top youngsters in the system earlier this week, we’re back to round out the list. To remind you, the previous five were Costantino Favasuli, Destiny Egharevba, Vittorio Agostinelli, Michael Kayode, and Giovanni Corradini. Ivan Andonov and Assane Seck would’ve made this list had Fiorentina extended their loans, but alas, they’ve both moved on.

Predicting youth development, of course, is really difficult. Growth isn’t linear, after all, and we don’t get to see these prospects every day in training. We don’t get to know them and find out which ones have the necessary drive to make it. Heck, I don’t get to watch the Primavera as often as I’d like since they often play at 3:30 AM in my time zone. That said, here’s a look at the guys I’ve ranked 5-1.

5. CB Lorenzo Lucchesi

The 19-year-old Florence native has had an odd path back home, taking stops at Empoli and Juventus before signing with the Viola in 2020. He slotted right into the U18s and even captained the team a couple of times, then moved up to the Primavera for this year. He seemed to be the top central defender before missing the second half of the season with injury, which led the defense to allow 0.28 goals more per match than they did when he started.

At this point, Lucchesi’s far from the finished product, which is pretty common for a teenage centerback; after all, defenders usually take longer to reach their peaks than any other position. Still, he’s got all the tools you could ask for: size, athleticism, and a knack for a nicely-timed challenge. His positioning can be iffy and his focus can waver, but those should come on in leaps and bounds as he matures. It may require patience, but he could repay it if everything comes together.

What’s next: Spend the whole season healthy and iron out some of the kinks.

4. RW Filippo Distefano

The 18-year-old Tuscan native (born in Camaiore) played a variety of roles for Alberto Aquilani’s boys this year, starting out as a trequartista and spending time on the left wing and up front, but he generally looked best to me when deployed on the right of the front three. He scored 4 goals and added 4 assists in 34 appearances but added a lot more value than the stats reflect.

A stocky, energetic attacker, Distefano’s a bit too eager to shoot when stationed on the left or through the center, but, when pushed wide right and thus unable to cut onto his stronger foot, uses his pace and trickiness to go down the line at times as well. He’s a good crosser and a creative passer. In fact, a lot of my notes about him say something to the effect of “when he tries to involve his teammates rather than looking for his own shot, he’s really, really good.” While he can still get a bit of tunnel vision at times, he has the look of a long-time professional, and Daniele Pradè agrees, having extended his contract back in March.

What’s next: He’ll probably take another year with the Primavera, so he should focus on cleaning up his decisions in the final third.

3. CF Eljon Toci

The 19-year-old carried Fiorentina’s attack singlehanded at times this year, surpassing all of my expectations with 15 goals and 8 assists in 38 appearances, or a goal contribution every 120 minutes, which was enough to get him a spot on the bench for a senior match. He also played his way into the Albanian international setup, making 4 appearances for the U19s and scoring 3 goals.

I’d been pretty underwhelmed by him after he joined from Südtirol last year, but he showed pretty much everything you want from a striker: he’s a burly figure who’s not afraid to throw himself around, has a soft touch to set up himself or his teammates, possesses just a bit more pace than you’d expect, presses really well, and reads the game well enough to pop up in the right place to round off moves. The only weakness in his game is that he’s not going to score from range, but his overall game more than makes up for it. He’s probably not quite at the level of former Primavera superstars like Gabriele Gori or Samuele Spalluto, he’s well on his way.

What’s next: With another year of Primavera eligibility and a familiar group of attackers, he should push for 20 goals while improving his technique. Like Gori, though, we’ll have to temper immediate expectations given that it often takes strikers who could bully weaker defenders at youth levels a little while to figure out how to play against grown men who can bully back.

2. CB Dimo Krastev

Long a VN favorite, the enormous Bulgarian’s development seemed to have stalled; he was very uneven last year and started this year off about the same. The injury to Lucchesi, while deeply unfortunate, was probably the best thing that could have happened for Krastev, as Aquilani dropped him into defense with almost immediate success. 34 appearances, 2 goals, and 3 assists may seem like a paltry return for a prospect touted as the future of the Viola midfield, but those numbers don’t tell half the story.

Krastev’s obviously bigger and stronger than most grown-ass men, so he’s always been able to push his fellow teenagers around. He’s also astonishingly skilled on the ball for such a large human, and possesses almost Nikola Milenković-levels of athletic ability. However, he often drifted out of games in midfield. After a brief settling in period, though, his rebirth as a defender was astonishing. His laser-guided passes from the back provided a constant threat going forward and he showed a talent for pushing all the way up to win the ball very high. While he still has occasional mental lapses, he looks like he could become a world-class stopper, as evidenced by an immense performance in the Coppa Italia final.

What’s next: Figure out if he’s a midfielder or a defender and spend the year bodying unfortunate teenagers while maintaining his focus for 90 minutes at a time.

1. CM Alessandro Bianco

The wispy 19-year-old grew up in Turin but has been with Fiorentina since 2018, and we’re damn lucky to have him. He stacked up 3 goals and 7 assists in 35 appearances while alternating between a holding role and a more box-to-box brief, marking his second outstanding Primavera season. Indeed, he was so good that he got a long look in Moena as a potential option for the senior side, made the bench for 4 Serie A games, and elbowed his way into the Italy U20 setup. Not a bad year at all.

Bianco’s got good athleticism, technique, and vision. He works hard with and without the ball. He can dribble, pass, and shoot. He can tackle. More than anything, though, he’s one of those rare players who can sometimes take the game by the scruff of the neck and make something happen. There were at least a dozen times this year when Fiorentina were struggling until he decided to leave his imprint on proceedings. His party trick is reading the game brilliantly, cutting out passes, and playing a quick vertical pass to set a forward through, but he won penalties and scored belters of his own as well.

What’s next: He’s just signed an extension to 2025 and has aged out of the youth setup, so he’s probably set for a loan move somewhere. While he may take a bit to adjust to the physicality, he’s got the brain and the skill to make it in Serie C or Serie B this year and maybe trouble Vincenzo Italiano’s squad not long after.

So there you have it. 10 Viola youngsters to watch very carefully this year. They’re by no means the only ones, but they’re the ones I think are closest to breaking through to the first team. And some of their younger teammates should be ready to step up and fill in around them. The Primavera is looking mighty fine indeed these days, mighty fine indeed.