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Season Review: Centerbacks

Some of what we expected to happen did indeed happen. But there were also some big surprises along the way.

ACF Fiorentina v West Ham United FC - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2022/23 Photo by Thomas Eisenhuth - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Centerback is one of Fiorentina’s historically weakest positions. The club usually has one top-class guy back there and then a couple who aren’t quite there yet, usually leading to a fair amount of turnover. This year started, though, with 3 good players for 2 spots in the heart of defense, and we were all duly excited. The bigger concern was depth after the end of the Matija Nastasić experiment.

Instead, all 3 presumptive starters suffered tough periods. Milenković was hurt at the start of the season, Igor regressed from his incredible 2021-2022, and Lucas Martínez Quarta’s frantic playstyle saw him fall from Vincenzo Italiano’s graces. By the end of the year, it was none other than Luca Ranieri starting next to the Mountain. Let’s remember how we got here.

Nikola Milenković

After ending years-long speculation about his impending exit by signing an extension to keep him in Florence until 2027. The joy of that announcement was tempered by a September injury that seemed to affect him for nearly a month, but as usual, once he locked in, he was perhaps Fiorentina’s most important player. His incredible combination of size and athleticism allows him to play any role in any system, whether that’s tracking opposing forwards high up the pitch or sweeping behind. He’s simply the best defender in the side and proved time and again that he should be the foundation of the back line.

Football, Italian Serie A: SSC Napoli v ACF Fiorentina

Stats: 42 appearances (36 starts), 3 goals, 2 assists, 9 yellow cards

What’s next: It sounds like he may have to acclimate to a new partner, but nobody should doubt that he’ll continue to operate as Serie A’s most underrated central defender and the bedrock of everything Italiano does. Can’t wait to see him again.

Grade: B+ Started slowly but came on strong, leaving a pile of rubble in his wake as he destroyed every attacker who tried him while improving as a passer and ball-carrier from the back.


A strange season for the big Brazilian, who emerged as one of Italy’s most impressive defenders last year, but he couldn’t maintain it. He’s particularly prone to misjudging high passes over the top and to losing runners in the box; both of those issues caused him, and Fiorentina, considerable grief this season. However, he’s still magnificent in building up from the back, both as a passer and a dribbler, and it’s much easier to remember the mistakes than the times he snuffed out attacks with good, proactive defending. Still, this was probably a step back from him.

UEFA Europa Conference League - Play-off, 2nd leg”FC Twente v ACF Fiorentina” Photo by ANP via Getty Images

Stats: 42 appearances (36 starts), 10 yellow cards, 2 red cards

What’s next: There’s reportedly big interest from Fulham, and it sounds like Daniele Pradè may be willing to accept a €15 million fee for him and take the plusvalenza. If that’s the case, we wish him the best of luck, although keeping him wouldn’t be a bad outcome.

Grade: C- There were good moments and it’s not fair to ignore them, but the catastrophic ones outweighed them.

Lucas Martínez Quarta

LMQ led Viola CBs in Serie A minutes this year but never seemed to win Italiano’s trust, aside from a stretch in the middle of the year when he was doubtless Fiorentina’s best defender. His statistics are absurd—top 12 in progressive passing distance/90, tackles/90, interceptions/90—but there’s a certain frantic aspect to his play, an almost pathological need to do more than he’s able, that leads to bad decisions and blown positioning. To his credit, he’s clearly a leader in the side and even wore the armband a few times.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Coppa Italia Final
Still nope.
Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Stats: 39 appearances (35 starts), 1 goal, 3 assists, 11 yellow cards

What’s next: He’ll likely stay in Florence and compete for a starting role again. He is, at worst, a really good 3rd centerback; the question is if he can tone it down just a bit and become a really good starter. We believe.

Grade: B The LMQ Goal Thirst™ was a problem at times and there were some iffy moments, but he’s an athletic monster and has the burning desire to win back the ball that exemplifies what Italiano wants in all his defenders.

Luca Ranieri

What a season it’s been for a player who wasn’t even supposed to be on the roster. After no acceptable loan options surfaced, he seemed completely superfluous, playing just twice before the World Cup break as injuries knocked out his colleagues and looking as rusty as you’d expect. After the break, though, he slowly fought his way into the rotation and began turning heads with a series of solid performances, culminating with starts in both the Coppa Italia and Conference League finals and acquitting himself quite well. Not the strongest or quickest, he’s smart, focused, and loves getting stuck in. Fall in love.

Fiorentina v West Ham - Europa Conference League Final Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Stats: 19 appearances (12 starts), 3 yellow cards

What’s next: He’s almost a lock for a significant role next year, maybe even next to Milenković. He’ll need to add a bit more strength, but he looks a really good complement to the Mountain. If not, he’s a good 3rd option with upside for more, especially since he fills an academy-trained spot.

Grade: B+ There were a couple of rocky moments, sure, but what a turnaround. His willingness to body up the likes of Domenico Berardi and Michail Antonio shows that he’s not afraid and believes he belongs at this level. And he’s right.

We’ve already reviewed the goalkeepers, so next up are the fullbacks.