We’ve all been, er, underwhelmed with Stefano Pioli’s insistence on sticking with Marco Benassi and Cyril Théréau in the attacking band behind the striker. That setup sure seems like it’s sacrificing Fiorentina’s attacking fluidity in favor of, well, nothing. It’s also keeping exciting playmakers Riccardo Saponara and Valentin Eysseric on the bench. The knock-on effect of that, of course, is that we haven’t yet seen Ianis Hagi, and he is not happy about that.
The young fantasista said in an interview with Romanian outlet Telekom Sport, “I’m disappointed, because I had a good training camp, I progressed well, and as everyone appreciated how I did in the camp, I was hoping to play [with the senior team].” So far, so good. We like it when the staff compliments a talented player.
But here’s where it starts to reflect poorly on Corvino and Pioli: “I have nothing to do, but I still train. I was told that I would go out on loan in the summer. No one came to me to talk about it, but they were really pleased with me and I expected to play. I did not get any explanation [about the benching]. But it’s football. You go through some difficult times. It’s important to know how to overcome them and improve.”
It’s a pretty damning indictment of the Viola brass. Telling a highly-touted 18-year-old that he’s going out on loan at the start of the summer makes a lot of sense; there are quite a few Gigliati youngsters proving themselves around Italy right now. Telling him after his very impressive summer training that he was going to play with the big boys, though, and then banishing him to the bench is pretty bad. It’s no wonder that he’s frustrated, especially when he’s watching Benassi and Théréau flail around in positions that he could really add something to.
For a team that’s publicly committed to a youth movement this season, it’s unconscionably stupid to let perhaps the most promising youngster in the setup languish on the bench in favor of an out-of-position midfielder and a 34-year-old journeyman. An 18-year-old needs consistent playing time to improve; otherwise, he’s just going to stagnate, and all of that potential will go unfulfilled. We’ve seen it time and again, and let’s give full credit to Hagi for recognizing that. Now we just have to hope that Pioli—who’s got a reputation from his time at Lazio as an excellent developer of young talent—will figure it out as well, and start giving his number 11 a steady diet of substitute appearances before he’s ruined forever.