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Transfer season means picking who’s out

The Viola need to open some roster spots before venturing into the mercato. Who’s it going to be?

ACF Fiorentina v US Salernitana - Serie A TIM Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

With the transfer window looming, everyone’s dreaming about the big January signings Fiorentina will make to cement a Champions League place, a trophy via the Coppa Italia and/or the Conference League, and lasting satisfaction with the world. Jan-Niklas Beste, Andrei Rațiu, Marco Grull? Sure, why not? Joshua Zirkzee, Boulaye Dia, Armand Laurienté? Probably not, but go ahead and dream!

The problem, of course, is the size of the current Viola squad. With Gaetano Castrovilli (maybe?) returning, there’s just a single roster spot available. To open up space for more acquisitions, DS Daniele Pradè and company need to shift a few guys towards the exit. While we’ve all got our favorite whipping boys, let’s be realistic. For example, Jonathan Ikoné isn’t leaving unless someone offers a ton of cash despite the miss of the season a few days ago.

Let’s take a quick run through the odd men out and sort them into three groups: pretty likely to leave, it could happen, and probably not. These groupings are based on factors like salary, first-team involvement, and possible market. These are obviously all guesses, but they’re at least pretty educated.

Pretty likely to leave

Josip Brekalo

Despite opening the season as the starter on the left wing, the Croatian just hasn’t offered anything, aside from a fluky goal at Napoli and about 3 decent crosses. Never the most athletic, he’s painfully incapable of beating the man in front of him and has developed a weird habit of losing the ball twice a game with a terrible first touch. In short, he’s pretty much turned into José Callejón, falling all the way down the pecking order. With Vincenzo Italiano interested in finding a goal-scoring winger to balance Nico González, it makes sense to ship Brekalo out first.

There’ve been rumblings that Dinamo Zagreb want to bring the 25-year-old back to his boyhood club, although the Plavi can’t afford his full €2 million salary. That means Fiorentina would probably be on the hook for at least part of his wages until 2026, which isn’t particularly appetizing. Perhaps a loan back home will improve his performance and tempt someone into buying this summer, but either way, it’s pretty clear that his Viola future has evaporated.

Niccolò Pierozzi

The 22-year-old rightback was tipped to back up Dodô this summer but quickly fell behind Michael Kayode, partly due to a knock that knocked him out for a couple of months to start the season. When the Brazilian went down with an injury of his own, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Pierozzi, but he hasn’t earned Vincenzo Italiano’s trust, making just 2 appearances against Čukarički so far. When Fabiano Parisi on the wrong side is a better option, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

That’s not to say that Pierozzi doesn’t have a Fiorentina future, but he needs to show something on the pitch before his contract runs out at the end of the year. He was superb on loan at Reggina last year and will likely draw interest from the top half of Serie B and maybe even some Serie A stragglers. And with Dodô hinting at an early return from his cruciate tear ligament, possibly as early as January, his opportunities in Florence will be even fewer.

Cristian Dalle Mura

After a solid spell at SPAL last campaign, everything seemed finished for an encore with the Estensi, but the move fell through at the last minute, leaving the 21-year-old centerback stranded in Florence. He’s made the matchday squad just once as Italiano has preferred Pietro Comuzzo as his emergency backup option. Dalle Mura’s still a really good prospect but he needs to play, so he’s almost certain to move in January in search of minutes to continue his development and try to crack the rotation again in the summer.

It could happen

Gaetano Castrovilli

After a stalemate with the brass about a raise last year, it seemed like he’d split with Fiorentina until a failed medical sank his move to Bournemouth. Following a third surgery on his left knee, he was left off the squad list while he recovered and even stripped of the 10 shirt. The irony, of course, is that he looks like a perfect fit as part of the double pivot right now, where his dynamism in possession and diligence out of it would make him a nice fit next to Arthur Melo and provide some cover for Alfred Duncan.

Grosseto v Fiorentina - Pre-season Friendly
If they won’t give you a contract, you may as well sign something else.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

If the situation is just too awkward to recover, though, finding a move away could be the best solution. His contract expires at season’s end; combined with his injury history, he’d likely be available for €10 million or so. It’s a massive drop from what he was worth just last year, so maybe the club decides to confront the discomfort and keep him around on the grounds that he won’t fetch anything approximating his on-pitch value. His status is very worth monitoring all month.

Gino Infantino

The 20-year-old was always considered a very raw prospect, to the point that I couldn’t even figure out his best position. At least we got the rawness part right, because he’s shown flashes of talent but just hasn’t seemed ready for the jump to Serie A. Especially with Lucas Beltrán showing the ability to drop in as a number 10, Infantino’s path to playing time is blocked. A loan move could get him the minutes he needs out of the spotlight and let him focus on improving for next year.

Probably not

Antonín Barák

The Czech maestro has had a miserable season, barely featuring and providing limited impact. He’s been so bad, in fact, that some pundits have been openly considering selling him at a loss just to get him out of the team. That’s obviously not going to happen, though. Remember that Pradè paid his transfer fee early just last year, which indicates how highly the Viola brain trust thinks of him. He’s not going anywhere.

I’d argue, in fact, that his dip in form is entirely about health. Remember that he missed the entire summer and start of the season with a truly horrific-sounding illness that saw him hospitalized with pericarditis. A scare like that is enough to throw anyone off rhythm, but Barák’s also had to cope with regaining his fitness while everyone else is already operating at peak capacity. After such a frightening off season, he deserves a few more months to find his groove, and Italiano should give him that grace.

M’Bala Nzola

Let’s get the not-fun parts out right now. Yes, he’s scored 1 Serie A goal in 920 minutes. Yes, he’s often looked confused, discouraged, and disinterested on the pitch. Yes, he’s fallen so far short of expectations that he’d need a bus transfer to reach them. We’re not here to bury the guy, okay? He’s had a tough start to life in Florence, but that doesn’t mean that he’s useless, and it definitely doesn’t mean that he’s going to be shuffled off the roster already.

For one thing, he’s started showing signs of life over the past month, looking more involved in the attack. For another, Fiorentina wouldn’t recoup any value with him, so it makes more sense to hold onto him and hope he improves. Too, he’s the only full-time prima punta on the roster. If Christian Kouamé joins the Côte d’Ivoire for AFCON, Nzola’s importance (assuming he remains out of the Angola setup) is magnified. There are just too many factors working against a quick exit for him, including his own talent.

Yerry Mina

Perhaps the strangest transfer rumor I’ve heard this season is that Barcelona are interested in the big Colombian. If the Blaugrana come calling, Fiorentina are unlikely to turn down a deal, especially if it provides a plusvalenza from a free signing, but it’s hard to imagine such a situation actually coming to pass. If anyone wants him, they’ll probably just wait until the summer: he signed a 1-year deal and the Viola aren’t likely to trigger their option.

Mina’s been 4th-choice in central defense for a reason. He missed the first few months of the season with hamstring problems and hasn’t looked particularly sharp since returning. He’s been confined to subsitute appearances, and his lone start—against Parma in the Coppa Italia—was very bad. The athleticism that once defined his game seems painfully absent, leaving him a lumbering husk, and it’s hard to shift that kind of player.

These aren’t the only players linked to moves away, of course. Expect a few big offers for Nico González, while guys like Michael Kayode, Nikola Milenković, and Lucas Martínez Quarta could draw some interest from the big boys as well. Even Riccardo Sottil, Christian Kouamé, and Alfred Duncan could spark some rumors. Realistically, though, these are the 8 names on the chopping block, and only 3 of them look like getting the axe. When you’re hip-deep in transfer rumors, bear that in mind before you get carried away.