So we all knew it was coming, but now it's official: Fiorentina have paid the €5 million fee to Cagliari to secure the services of Davide Astori permanently. After a very positive first season in Florence, it was hardly a difficult decision, especially at his current salary of €500,000. Along with Gonzalo Rodríguez, he forms one of the most technically gifted centerback pairings in Serie A, which was a big part of Fiorentina's early season success.
Part of what makes Astori and Gonzalo such an effective pairing is that they complement each other perfectly. Whereas the Argentine likes to step forward into the midfield, sticking tight to his man and snuffing out attacks before they develop, Astori is more of a sweeper, diligently covering behind his colleague. As such, the Italian's defending statistics look scarce and in no way reflect his contribution. His positioning is generally quite sound, and he's got a surprising turn of pace to chase down anyone who slips in behind the high line Paulo Sousa prefers. He's decent in the air, but it's his distribution that really shines: he played the 3rd most passes of any centerback in Serie A and (with Milan Badelj) tied for the lead in accurate long passing rate per 90 minutes.
Astori actually got his start in the AC Milan system, but never featured for the Rossoneri. After a couple of loan spells, he joined Cagliari in 2008, originally on a co-ownership deal, for €3.5 million. He went on to make 179 appearances for the Sardinians, scoring 4 goals and notching 3 assists. He turned down a €15 million to Spartak Moscow in 2012 because he wanted to achieve his goals with the club. 2 years later, he moved to AS Roma on loan, where he gained a starter's berth, but the Lupi brass let him return to Cagliari, who then sent him to Florence.
With the starting centerback pairing locked down, the next step will be finding some more depth along the backline, particularly in the fullback positions. However, every good team has excellent centerbacks, and Astori provides the base that a possession-based team needs to build from the back. Job well done.