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The curious case of Cristian Tello

The Viola have been trying to bring the Barcelona-owned winger back all summer, and he's still not in Florence. And nobody seems to know what's going on.

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

When Cristian Tello joined Fiorentina on loan from Barcelona, I was pretty excited. Here was a guy who's got 86 appearances with Barcelona in his career at the tender age of 24, a graduate of La Masia, a player noted for his pace and technique on the ball who'd been frozen out of the Blaugrana squad due to the arrivals of Neymar and Luis Suárez. It seemed a little weird that Barca was willing to yank him from Porto, where he'd signed a 2 year loan deal, after just a quarter of that to send him elsewhere, but hey, sometimes deals occur between clubs and agents that the public never hears about.

Tello had a solid half-season with Fiorentina. His pace, technique, and verticality added a dimension that was otherwise completely absent from the attack, but his end product remained uneven. Nevertheless, he scored 2 goals and set up 5 others in his 15 matches in Florence; a goal scored or set up every other game is a pretty impressive record by anyone's standards, especially as he was nominally (if not actually) playing an unfamiliar wingback position and in a new league. There were flashes of excellence and the promise of improvement.

The loan expired at season's end, but it seemed a sure thing that Tello would return shortly. Fiorentina and Barcelona entered into negotiations towards the end of June. Word leaked at the beginning of July that the sides were close, and that's where they've stayed ever since. Everyone's agreed that Fiorentina will take the winger on loan for another year, but the price to buy him outright is the problem: Fiorentina are offering €6.5 million while Barcelona insist on €8 million. With neither side willing to budge, a number of Premier League sides have joined the hunt. Swansea City is rumored to have offered €14 million for him, while Liverpool and Tottenham have both been sniffing around without formally presenting an offer. The player himself desperately wants a Fiorentina encore, as he fears he won't get the playing time he craves in England.

So here we are. Fiorentina and Barcelona deadlocked. Tello training in Catalonia. English teams circling like sharks. The Della Valles unwilling to increase their offer by €1.5 million. Corvino's been in touch with the Barca brass, and various pundits still seem to think there's a good chance that a deal gets made, but the longer it takes, the less likely a favorable outcome is. As the player wants badly to return, is just entering his prime, and fits Paulo Sousa's tactics, it seems like a waste to let him slip away.