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Fiorentina season review: Defensive midfield

A lot of transition in this area and a lot more to come.

ACF Fiorentina v Empoli FC - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Last season left Fiorentina’s defensive midfield in tatters. Fan favorite and possible player of the season Lucas Torreira departed the club after failing to find terms with Joe Barone despite an initial agreement for the move from Arsenal. That left Sofyan Amrabat as the presumptive starter; the Moroccan’s Viola career had been up-and-down to that point, although he finished on a high note. Alfred Duncan was the only other option in the spot.

The club brought in Rolando Mandragora over the summer from Juventus and promoted Primavera star Alessandro Bianco, but it was clearly going to be the Amrabat show, which wasn’t too surprising considering how much upper management has always backed him. Even with some new faces and new responsibilities, though, this group was pretty solid all year.

Sofyan Amrabat

The shiny-domed destroyer had himself one hell of a season. He was maybe the best midfielder in Serie A over the first few months and then became the World Cup’s breakout star. Upon his return to his domestic duties, his level dropped a bit, but he remained one of the 2 or 3 most important players in the side, and he was completely irreplaceable. His combination of sheer athleticism, physicality, determination, and metronomic distribution allowed Fiorentina to dominate nearly every game he played.

Fiorentina v West Ham - Europa Conference League Final
Really loved the sense of humor he developed late in the season.
Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Stats: 49 appearances (41 starts), 1 assist, 16 yellow cards

What’s next: He’s leaving this summer, and the only question left is his eventual destination and how much the move will make Fiorentina. PSG and Barcelona seem to be the front runners, but as long as there’s a good return for him (and there should be), we’ll be quite pleased with how it all worked out.

Grade: A- The start of the season was transcendent, but the end was merely very good.

Rolando Mandragora

We were all initially skeptical of the ex-Juventus and Torino man, but he eventually won us over, even though we weren’t ever quite sure what exactly he did. Without Amrabat’s obvious physical advantages or Giacomo Bonaventura’s technical ones, he ended up being a link player whose primary job was to keep the ball moving and fill in spaces as the fullbacks and attackers shifted around him. While he wasn’t usually the protagonist, he does all the little things that help the team keep moving forward; he reminds me of mustachioed, blasphemous Milan Badelj more than anything else.

Rolando Mandragora of Acf Fiorentina looks on during the...
And the award for Most Italian Looking player goes to...
Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Stats: 50 appearances (37 starts), 4 goals, 5 assists, 10 yellow cards

What’s next: He’ll need a new partner at the base of midfield, but he should play a big part in Fiorentina’s next campaign.

Grade: B- He was bad as the regista but good in a double pivot without ever wowing anyone; hitting on a couple more of his shots would’ve made a big difference.

Alfred Duncan

The always-forgotten man in Fiorentina’s midfield rotation was, as usual, solid whenever called upon despite featuring only when others were unavailable. His progressive passing is still a weapon that no other midfielder on the roster possesses and he brings some decent physicality, but he can be a little sloppy in possession. Maybe that’s why he never gets on the pitch as often as we think he ought to.

Torino FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Not pictured: getting booked from the bench in the Conference League final for yelling at the ref.
Photo by sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Stats: 30 appearances (15 starts), 1 goal, 4 yellow cards

What’s next: With a contract that runs out next year, he could be sold on to recoup some money, especially with a €2.4 million salary on the books, but keeping him around means having a really good rotational option, so it’s really a toss-up.

Grade: B- Did pretty much what he always does, and that’s pretty good.

Alessandro Bianco

He was the Primavera’s best player last year and looked a lock for a loan move, but instead he stuck with the senior side. He didn’t make that many appearances and most of them were cameos, but he showed a fiery attitude even when the pace and physicality of the professional game looked a bit much for him; he was one of Serie A’s fouliest players on a per-minute basis. At 20 years old, he still made a good impression, but again, it’s his toughness that stood out: dude got suckerpunched by a coward of a Sivasspor fan and shook it right off.

Sporting Braga v ACF Fiorentina: Knockout Round Play-Off Leg One - UEFA Europa Conference League
That youthful countenance conceals the spikiness of a 42-year-old dad with a second mortgage.
Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Stats: 12 appearances (3 starts), 2 yellow cards

What’s next: It all depends on what the summer transfer market looks like. If the club buys a bunch of midfield reinforcements, he’ll probably go to Serie B on loan. If not, he could stick around as an academy graduate and emergency backup again.

Grade: C+ Showed enough that he has every chance to be a long-term part of this team, even if it may take him another year or two.

We’ve recapped the goalkeepers, centerbacks, and fullbacks so far. Next up are the attacking midfielders.