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Genoa 1-4 Fiorentina: Player grades and 3 things we learned

Salutate la capolista.

Genoa CFC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
qwop king
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6: Made a pretty good save on Mateo Retegui’s late header but wasn’t tested much otherwise. Was typically quick off his line and was pretty good in the buildup. Not at fault for the goal.

Michael Kayode—8: Holy smokes. A perfect first-team debut for a teenager whose highest club level was with the Primavera. Showcased pace, strength, intelligence, technique, and attitude in buckets. I flagged him as the club’s top youth prospect but didn’t think he’d be this good this soon. Fiorentina have a gem. Speechless.

Genoa CFC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
About half a second before Kayode deked Jagiełło so hard the Pole went down like an imploding building.
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Nikola Milenković—7.5: Welcomed Retegui to Serie A and spent 90 minutes pushing the ballyhooed oriundo into the lockers. Too big, too strong, too quick, and too smart. It’s easy to forget just how good he is, although his penchant for cards (the late one probably wasn’t necessary with a 1-4 lead) is a little irritating.

Luca Ranieri—7: The good-natured goofball times his sliding challenges as well as any player I’ve ever seen wearing the Viola shirt and is growing as a player every week, it seems. Happy to step forward and close down but equally happy to mark back. A bit less frantic than Lucas Martínez Quarta but still managed to pop up pressing goalkeeper Josep Martínez in open play at one point.

Cristiano Biraghi—8: Scored an early goal-of-the-season contender and notched an assist off a corner. Haters will criticize a couple of set piece deliveries and his slowness to step up on Davide Biraschi’s goal, but there are maybe 3 teams in the league that wouldn’t kill to have him.

Arthur Melo—6.5: As advertised, the Brazilian was silky in possession and inventive on the ball. Did have a couple of bad touches early on but settled in well. Pressed decently, albeit without needing to do much, and contributed without the ball. Did seem to run out of gas towards the end, which is a concern, but definitely a solid debut.

Rolando Mandragora—7.5: Did all the usual, invisible Mandragora things both in and out of possession, which means he kept everything moving in the middle third in an almost Milan Badeljesque kind of way. Also scored his goal with a trademark late run, which is going to be necessary for this team.

Nicolás González—8: Scored a typically incredible header and constantly drove things forward, hitting the post with a shot from distance to create the second goal and generally making the Genoa defenders miserable. Tracked back well and showcased his physicality. Seemed a half step off beat with his teammates at times but that’ll get sorted as the season progresses.

Giacomo Bonaventura—7.5: Took his chance perfectly and was constantly involved around the penalty box, offering a target for progressive passes and then twisting his way past defenders and looking for the killer ball. He found it, too, with that marvelous chip for the Mandrake. He turns 34 tomorrow and proved that age is just a number for him.

Genoa CFC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
The other goalscorers have to hug you for your birthday.
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Josip Brekalo—6.5: Heavily involved in the first half and showed some nice touches, particularly in the buildup to the second goal, but doesn’t seem to have the juice to take advantage of beating his man off the dribble. Definitely a useful player but probably not a star.

M’bala Nzola—7: Got an assist for Biraghi but his real impact was his sheer physicality. Able to battle 2 or 3 defenders and knock down long passes for onrushing teammates, which adds a hitherto unseen element to the Viola attack. A bit clumsy in the final third at times and seemed frustrated not to score, but his pressing and linkup play mean he’s going to make an enormous impact beyond the scoresheet this year.

Riccardo Sottil—5: Showed some quickness and some dribbling, but his habit of falling down under the slightest contact is really becoming a problem, as he’s more interested in appealing for a foul on his backside while the opponent sprints the other direction than in winning the ball back.

Dodô—n/a: Made a couple of darting jaunts infield, as is his wont, and generally looked like himself in his 9 minutes.

Alfred Duncan—n/a: Gave us the usual Duncan experience in under 10 minutes. Line-splitting passes and authoritative ball recoveries interspersed with inexplicable giveaways is his thing, but he’s usually a positive on balance.

Lucas Beltrán—n/a: Only got 9 minutes but showed that he’s a threat in behind and has some juice with the ball at his feet, although he’ll definitely need a month or two to really get his feet under him and learn his coach’s and teammate’s habits.

Gino Infantino—n/a: Promising but raw in a brief cameo.

Three things we learned

1. Fiorentina’s academy is firing on all cylinders. Outside of the occasional outlier (Manchester United’s Class of 1992, Barcelona circa 2004), a youth system is doing great if it produces one quality prospect a year. Kayode is going to get so much hype, and rightfully so, but Ranieri and Sottil are also an in-house products, while the bench featured 2 more Primavera players in Tomasso Martinelli and Pietro Comuzzo. Add in recent academy grads like Federico Chiesa,

2. These guys are already in the tank for each other. Dušan Vlahović was a fantastic Fiorentina player, but his habit of screaming at teammates made him hard to like sometimes. The contrast with this year’s group is noticeable. Everyone made a particular effort to big up Kayode (who fully deserved it), but that sort of team spirit is really encouraging and can help propel a team onto bigger things. I don’t want to extrapolate off a single result against a mediocre Genoa, but the way these guys seem to be playing for each other rather than for themselves is mighty encouraging.

3. Fiorentina could be Serie A’s most comedic team this year. There were so many funny moments in this game: Ranieri routinely blocking off Retegui in the box so Terracciano could claim a cross then getting so amped up that he chestbumped a visibly nonplused Biraghi. Sottil going down after a foul and having Ranieri walk up behind him laughing to give him a hand up. Italiano physically throwing team secretary Simone Ottaviani out of his chair in the dugout. This photo that Mike-R flagged up.

It’s way too early to make any predictions for Serie A’s capolista (GET THE MUG), but I’ll go out on a limb and say that this may be the division’s premier meme team.