Fiorentina’s history of fullbacks is truly bizarre. The Viola have had, at worst, a capable option on the left for the past 20 years, as Manuel Pasqual, Massimo Gobbi, and now Cristiano Biraghi have all operated as fringe Italy internationals and rock-solid contributors. On the right, however, there’s been a decades-long hole as a succession of out-of-position centerbacks and out-of-depth role players have tried and failed to fill in.
Álvaro Odriozola was the best rightback the club’s seen since at least Lorenzo de Silvestri and probably longer, but his departure opened the door for Dodô this summer. After a full season, Fiorentina has its best pair of fullbacks since the 1990s. The only question is their backups. Let’s dive in.
The captain was his usual reliable self, scoring a goal-of-the-season candidate and offering his usual influence in the final third. After serving as one of Europe’s most creative defenders last year despite just a single league assist, his strikers finally finished off his chances, leading to a statistical bounceback that kept him in line with the eyeball test. While his defending in space can be iffy at times, his attacking evolution from a pure overlapping crosser to a part-time deep playmaker was fascinating. And he answered, for once and always, any questions about his toughness and commitment to the cause.
Stats: 52 appearances (50 starts), 3 goals, 12 assists, 5 yellow cards
What’s next: The captain isn’t going anywhere and will be back next year for another run.
Grade: B+ There were hiccups, particularly at the back, but he’s one of the better leftbacks in Serie A and he reminded us why we’re lucky to have him.
The 23-year-old had an odd season. Obviously behind Biraghi in the pecking order, he had a brief spell working as a rare left-footed rightback in the middle of the season until Dodô firmly took the reins in that spot. Despite some rumblings that he wanted out in the winter transfer window, he stuck around and scored his first Fiorentina goal while operating as the best friend for Luka Jović and Nikola Milenković. Unfortunately, he didn’t do anything to answer the questions we had at the start of the season about his defensive acumen, and it’s unclear if he can do the job near his own goal.
Stats: 32 appearances (15 starts), 1 goal, 4 assists, 3 yellow cards
What’s next: With a contract expiring in 2024 and reported interest from several other clubs, Daniele Pradè could cash in on him and look for another high-upside backup to Biraghi, especially if Terzić wants more minutes to cement his place in the Serbia setup.
Grade: C+ There were definitely some fun moments, but he’s just to unsteady at the back to rise much above a passing mark.
Bought for €15 million from Shakhtar Donetsk this summer, the Brazilian was billed as a long-term solution. It took him some time to get his feet all the way under him, leading to some iffy performances through the first few months, but by February, he’d figured out his role and became one of the first names on the team sheet, interpreting the fullback position in a unique manner: rather than overlapping down the wing, he jetted infield to become an extra midfielder. While his diminutive stature made him a target sometimes, his fiery demeanor and general spikiness endeared him to fans and made opponents hate him.
Stats: 50 appearances (42 starts), 1 goal, 4 assists, 7 yellow cards, 1 red card
What’s next: Although his agent mentioned early on that he expected the 24-year-old to move on this year, it looks like Dodô’s going to stick around for at least another year, much to the delight of Fiorentina supporters and the irritation of everyone else.
Grade: B+ Finished the season very strongly while adding a dynamic option to work the ball forward, but his uneven start to the season keeps him from earning the highest mark.
Our beloved Lollo was, once again, vilified by certain segments of the fanbase for some high-profile errors—several of which weren’t really his fault—and remained one of the favorite whipping boys for some toxic fans. He’s a talented player, but just not a good fit for what Italiano wants out of his rightback; Venuti’s attempts to emulate Dodô fizzled and led him into spots he just wasn’t comfortable in. True, his performances weren’t as good as he’d have liked, but he offered the squad a unique connection with the fans and earned the Curva Fiesole’s respect for his uncomplaining response to adversity.
Stats: 24 appearances (16 starts), 1 assist, 6 yellow cards
What’s next: The club has announced his contract won’t be renewed, so he’s a free agent. He’ll catch on with a Serie A club and have a long, productive career in the top tier. I say this about most outbound players, but when I say that I wish him the best, I wish it more fervently than I have for perhaps any other guy. Vero uomo.
Grade: A++ The dude came all the way through the ranks with his boyhood club and I’m not going to hear anyone badmouth him on the way out.