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Babacar inching towards the exit

The Senegalese striker and fan favorite seems to have fallen out of favor in Florence, putting a host of teams on high alert.

The Babacar Named Desire can't believe that people think he's leaving.
The Babacar Named Desire can't believe that people think he's leaving.
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Khouma Babacar is a weird player. Although he's been at Fiorentina for what seems like ages--with the release of Manuel Pasqual, he's the longest-tenured Viola player remaining, having signed in 2009--he's still just 23 years old and is generally seen as the future. A hulking forward with the build of a classic target man, he's scored just one headed goal in the past two seasons, opting instead to use his lethal right foot to strike from a variety of positions and distances. Despite his tremendous physical strength, he's more comfortable working the channels than battling with centerbacks. But even so, he's one of the most highly-rated young strikers in Italy, the crown jewel of the Primavavera and a shining example to the youth players that, yes, a player can work his way through the system and into starhood.

Of late, though, some of that shine has come off. Unable to unseat a sputtering Nikola Kalinić last season, he remained glued to the bench or the trainer's table (he's shown a susceptibility to injuries). Even with the his gaudy goals-per-minute ratio, Paulo Sousa didn't trust him to lead the line of a team that was devoid of ideas in the final third. Long coveted by a host of English teams for his size and touch, rumor seeped through the grapevine that Crystal Palace had made a €10 million offer for him, which the Viola turned down. However, word is that €15 million is his price, and Crystal Palace, now armed with that absurd Premier League lucre, are ready to try again. They've got competition, though, as Watford are also looking to swoop in, with Udinese and Sassuolo watching as well.

It's quite a turn of events for a player who signed a long-term extension until 2019 earlier this year, and who has stated, both personally and through his agent as recently as last week, that he loves Florence and has no intention of leaving. Furthermore, with the academy-raised player requirement looming, he could be useful for more than just his raw talent as Corvino builds a squad complying with FIGC guidelines. He had the 7th best scoring rate among strikers in Serie A, and finished last year with 7 goals and an assist in 24 appearances, mostly off the bench. Selling him would certainly provide some money to fund this summer's mercato, but given his agent, talent, homegrown status, and willingness to keep wearing the purple shirt, selling him would be a bold move indeed.