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.
One of the things I love about Viola Nation is the readers aren’t fans in the insufferable way that pervades social media. So many people seem less interested in watching the game than in “winning” the transfer season. That’s why you have people treating scoop merchants like superstars rather than aggregators, in what has to be one of the strangest twists to sports journalism imaginable.
Still, though, the transfer market is really important to building a good team, and Fiorentina had a decent couple this year. We spend a lot of time around here making fun of DS Daniele Pradè—sometimes with very good reason—but he brought in a lot of really useful players this season. Let’s run through and pick the most impactful. I’ve excluded Pierluigi Gollini, Salvatore Sirigu, and Josip Brekalo for not playing enough, leaving 4 options.
Initially signed on loan from Hellas Verona, the Czech playmaker brought a weight of expectation. The prior season, he tallied 11 goals and 4 assists for the Mastini with a low-socked, understated elegance. He sputtered a bit in a deeper role, but eventually caught on when allowed to operate in his more natural number 10 position. At times he seemed a bit peripheral, but his off-ball movement was fantastic and he produced some gorgeous highlights, especially in the Conference League. Pradè triggered his clause 3 months early for €8.5 million for him, which shows just how high the Viola are on him.
Stats: 47 appearances (30 starts), 8 goals, 1 assist, 5 yellow cards
The diminutive fullback arrived for €15 million from Shakhtar Donetsk to replace Álvaro Odriozola, but split time with Lorenzo Venuti for the first few months while he settled in. Despite some poor early returns, he eventually took over the rightback spot and made it his, combining pace, intelligence, and an unbelievably spiky demeanor to become undroppable by the midway point, largely due to his ability to play narrow as an extra midfielder. While he still looked defensively suspect at times, mostly due to his small frame, he already looks like Fiorentina’s best rightback in literally decades.
Stats: 50 appearances (42 starts), 1 goal, 7 yellow cards, 1 red card
The Serbia international arrived on loan from Real Madrid in an unprecedented loan deal that sees the Spanish giants pay half his wage for 2 years worth of loan, then release him on a free transfer to Fiorentina if the Tuscans choose to sign him. It felt like a massive coup for a 25-year-old who’d shown so much early promise. The results were pretty good as he scored every 180 minutes on average, which is generally the mark of an excellent striker. Despite recriminations for his perceived laziness due to a languid on-pitchdemeanor, occasionally dodgy finishing, and lack of appreciation for the fans, he had a successful season.
Stats: 50 appearances (25 starts), 13 goals, 5 assists, 4 yellow cards
Faced with the skepticism the Curva Fiesole bears for any ex-Juventino, Mandragora took awhile to find his feet. He looked out of place as a mezzala and overwhelmed as a regista, but really clicked as part of a double pivot, which allowed him to showcase his intelligence in possession and off the ball without placing too large a burden on him. For a deep statistical dive, he led Fiorentina in xG+/-, which measures how many chances a team created and conceded when a player was on the field as opposed to off. In some ways, he’s the new Milan Badelj: a smart, technical player who does all the little thing that nobody notices but that make everyone else better.
Stats: 50 appearances ( starts), 4 goals, 5 assists, 10 yellow cards, 0 recorded blasphemies
Only one of these fourcan be Fiorentina’s signing of the season. Which one?
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