It’s been a hell of a year for Fiorentina. The team played 60 games—its most-ever in a season—across 3 competitions, reaching 2 finals. We’ve obviously got a lot to talk about, so here’s our season wrap-up over the next week or so.
Fiorentina just had one of the strangest seasons in recent memory. Losing two finals is obviously the high/lowlight for fans, but there’s been so much going on. We’ll start this season recap off, though, by trying to pick a player of the season. That may sound pretty simple, but I think a look at the candidates will make it clear that this is far from an open-and-shut case.
I’ve picked out the 5 guys who I think most deserve the nod here. While you could certainly make a case for Arthur Cabral or Pietro Terracciano, say, I wanted to keep this article pretty brief and made some executive decisions. You’re more than welcome to explain why I’m wrong in the comment section.
What a year it’s been for Sofyan Amrabat. Always looking a slight misfit for Fiorentina, he seemed to find his feet at the tail end of 2021-2022, then carried that form on with a vengeance into this year. He was unquestionably the star of the side through the first 3 months of the season and somehow turned that up in the World Cup, becoming perhaps the tournament’s biggest breakthrough star.
Upon his return to Florence, he seemed a bit diminished. Not that you could blame him. He was still very good, but seemed to lack that extra bite that had turned him into Serie A’s most destructive force and settled in as one of the league’s better registe. Even with that slight decline, he was amazing: 3rd in passes into the attacking third and 4th in progressive passes.
His defensive numbers aren’t as impressive simply because he kept the Viola in possession so well that he rarely had to win the ball, but he did at every opportunity. He had finally become the midfielder Fiorentina had so ardently desired, a guy capable of replacing Luca Torreira. In short, he was colossal.
Stats: 49 appearances (33 starts), 3497 minutes, 1 assist, 16 yellow cards
For the second year running, captain Cris led the club in total minutes, crosses, expected assists, and touches. Unlike last year, when he got just 2 assists all year, his teammates actually finished off the chances he created, elevating him into elite company. He wasn’t just overlapping all the time, though. He often sat deeper and sprayed the ball around like a deep playmaker more than a traditional fullback.
While we expect fantastic set pieces delivery from the wide areas, he held up pretty well defensively too, although having the centerbacks shift his direction at times helped quite a bit. He had a few bad moments in his own third, but so does literally every defender, and cherrypicking those miscues doesn’t accurately reflect the player’s impact. In Biraghi’s case, given his contributions going forward, he was more than adequate.
He also answered, for once and for all, any questions about his leadership qualities. Fans had previously questioned his commitment to the team (yeah, he left to try and catch on with his boyhood club once) and his locker room presence (rumors of a rift with Cesare Prandelli that led to the coach’s departure). The Conference League final, though, should silence anyone who underestimated his toughness and professionalism. Add that mindset to the technique of a guy who scored from inside his own half this year and you’ve got a hell of a player.
Stats: 52 appearances (46 starts), 4000 minutes, 3 goals, 13 assists, 5 yellow cards
On a team full of relatively unheralded players, Jack was always going to be the grizzled, wily veteran. He’s got an innate understanding of when to stay calm and keep his teammates grounded, and when to push forward and assert himself (hence the sendings off). Time and again, when this team needed a lift, Bonaventura stepped forward and provided it.
He wasn’t just an emotional leader, though. He can still ball. 7 goals and 4 assists bear testament to his effectiveness, but he’s more than the goals. It’s the twisting clear of tacklers to keep a move going. It’s the knack for popping up in space. It’s the threat that he can and will shoot from anywhere that keeps defenses scrambling. He may be more of a moments player than a steady contributor, but he’s still got half a dozen moments a game.
He can, of course, tip over the edge sometimes. He loses his head a bit sometimes, barking at referees or shooting from distance when he ought to pass, but he’s still a reliable pace-setter for the team. That’s why, despite the ballyhooed arrival of Antonín Barák and the return of Gaetano Castrovilli, Jack remained a fixture in the midfield, whether as an 8 or a 10. He’s just that good.
Stats: 49 appearances (37 starts), 3273 minutes, 7 goals, 4 assists, 5 yellow cards, 1 red card
If the question was simply, “Who’s Fiorentina’s best player?” we’d all answer Nico. He’s the only guy on the roster who can, at any moment, in any situation, take the game in his hands and make something happen. This year, we saw him at his most complete: he stayed wide and crossed, drifted infield and sliced open defenses as a playmaker and dribbler, became one of Serie A’s most potent aerial threats (3rd in aerial duels won per 90), pressed brilliantly, and constantly won fouls (5th in free kicks won per 90).
However, he didn’t play as much as we, or he, would have liked. Back and hamstring issues limited him early in the season, leading to an ugly statement from Joe Barone about how the winger was holding back to stay fit for Argentina in the World Cup. Nico, of course, ultimately missed that through injury as well, leading to a decidely awkward month or two as he rehabbed his injuries in Florence.
When he came back, though, he demonstrated just how mentally tough he is and firmly reestablished himself as the key man. It’s no coincidence that Fiorentina’s uneven form over the first 3 months coincided with the period he was hurt or limited, and that the club improved as soon as he returned. The only reason to look elsewhere for this award is that he played significantly less than the other candidates, but even so, his impact was unmistakable.
Stats: 42 appearances (28 starts), 2663 minutes, 14 goals, 5 assists, 6 yellow cards
After signing a contract extension following 2 seasons of transfer speculation, the Mountain that Kicks earned a lot of love from the Viola faithful. When hip problems knocked him out for much of September, though, the love started to fade a bit, especially since it took him a bit to get his groove back. There were even whispers that Lucas Martínez Quarta had surpassed him as Fiorentina’s best defender.
And Milenković silenced those whispers as he settled back into the team, firmly establishing himself as the leader in defense and the unquestionable rock on which the entire back line rested. He was as aerially dominant as ever (8th-best aerial win percentage in Serie A) but added new dimensions to his game, alternating between sweeping and man-marking without missing a beat. He even showed a bit more ambition with the ball at his feet, and of course was the focal point of every set piece.
That versatility, though, is what makes him special. Defending is famously hard to quantify, but all you have to do is watch Big Nicky to understand that he’s special. He’s capable of running with speedy wingers and bodying hulking number 9s, and there aren’t many defenders in Europe who can do both. Fiorentina’s defense is always criticized but had the 7th-best goals against record in Serie A. Without Milenković, we’re looking at at least 10 more, which would’ve landed this team squarely in the relegation zone. He’s crucial, understated, and awful to play against, everything a centerback should be.
Stats: 42 appearances (36 starts), 3352 minutes, 3 goals, 2 assists, 9 yellow cards
Who was Fiorentina’s player of 2022-2023?
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