As we hit the third week of November, there’s only one thing on everyone’s mind: how unspeakably stupid it is that we’re having a World Cup right now. Even so, we’re going to provide some level of coverage, I suppose, especially since Fiorentina has 5 players who’ll be participating. Here’s a little rundown of who they are and what to expect from them. As a bonus, I’ll toss in some extra players with (sometimes pretty tenuous) connections to the Viola.
No Fiorentina players. The only former player who maybe could’ve been involved is Khouma Babacar of Senegal, but El Babito hasn’t featured for the Lions of Teranga in half a decade and probably hasn’t been in serious consideration since scoring 8 for Alanyaspor in 2020-2021.
No current Fiorentina players. No former Fiorentina players. In all likelihood, no future Fiorentina players.
Now we’re getting somewhere. The headliner is Nicolás González getting called up for Argentina despite being injured to start the season and “injured” for the past several games. How a guy who’s missed half of his club’s matches this season is still on Lionel Scaloni’s radar is interesting, but it’s rubbed a lot of Viola fans the wrong way, and you can’t blame them.
Anyways, Nico has a chance to play a big part in this tournament. His pace and work rate could make him a vital component in a team that’s based around Lionel Messi’s playmaking, as he’ll be tasked with getting in behind. If he’s not starting, he’ll be one of the first options off the bench; despite a star-studded attack including Messi, Angel di Maria, and Paulo Dybala, Nico’s functionality as a guy who doesn’t need the ball at his feet to be effective means he has every chance to serve as a conduit for Messi’s brilliance.
Lucas Martínez Quarta, meanwhile, made the initial 50-man list but was one of the 24 players left out. It’s not shocking, as he’s had an up-and-down season for the Viola, but he’s been much better over the past couple of months. Interestingly enough, the guy who probably took his spot is none other than former Fiorentina captain Gemán Pezzella, who’s been quite good for Real Betis this year. While he’s probably the fourth centerback behind Lisandro Martínez, Christian Romero, and Nicolas Otamendi, Pezze’s leadership should provide some emotional ballast for a team that’s desperate to win the World Cup for Messi.
La Albiceleste isn’t the only team in Group B with some purple tinges. Poland have picked Szymon Żurkowski despite his limited (read: 77 minutes across 4 appearances) role for the Viola. Big Z is a really good player and looks perfectly suited for a tournament-style approach, which prioritizes physicality and discipline over creativity. He’s probably not a big part of Czesław Michniewicz’s plans; I’d guess that he’s probably no better than 5th on the list, and may only be in there because he starred for the manager with the U21s. If he can add to his 6 senior caps, we can call it personal success for him.
Also set to feature for the Orly is former Fiorentina standout (?) Krzysztof Piątek, who’s firmly firmly fourth choice behind Robert Lewandowski, Karol Świderski, and Arkadiusz Milik, so don’t expect to see much of him despite the assist he got against the Viola recently. Bartłomiej Drągowski, meanwhile, would’ve been on the list but suffered a horrific injury against Hellas Verona over the weekend and is set to miss out, leaving Łukasz Fabiański as the backup to Wojciech Szczęsny.
There aren’t any current Viola players in this group. Jordan Veretout has made the France squad, however, and may wind playing a significant role. Christian Nørgaard has also made the Denmark squad as one of the five final players; his year in Florence was mightily forgettable but it definitely happened, so keep an eye out for that squarest of jaws on the bench.
No real Fiorentina interest here, unless you’re scandalized by Spain leaving Marcos Alonso at home. What’s that? You’re not scandalized? Yeah, me neither. Let’s move on.
Sofyan Amrabat may be the most important player for the Atlas Lions, as he’ll be tasked with keeping the absurdly talented midfields of Croatia and Belgium from running riot. While the outsider might laugh at his chances, anyone who’s watched Fiorentina this year knows that he’s been the club’s player of the season thus far, dominating matches on his own. He’ll be tasked with damage mitigation in the middle and with finding Morocco’s exciting attackers on the break.
If there’s one Fiorentina player who’s going to turn heads at this tournament, it’s Amrabat. I’m expecting a strong showing from him, the type that usually makes itchy-fingered owners reach for their wallets. Hopefully he’s enjoying life in Florence right now, because this is the sort of shop window that could boost him to a Champions League club.
Youssef Maleh, despite receiving his first call-up after choosing Morocco over Italy, will have to wait to make his international debut.
Pedro is in the squad. Fiorentina beffata, per oggi e per sempre. While he’s been great in the other Serie A, he’s probably not much more than a rotational option for Tite here. Still, it’ll be fascinating to get a look at him, even though I remain convinced that his lack of playing time in Florence was down to something more nefarious than managers not liking him.
Here’s the big one. To no one’s surprise, both Nikola Milenković and Luka Jović are on the plane. Big Nicky is the most talented defender on the roster and will be tasked with slowing down Neymar, Vinícius Junior, Noah Okafor, and Karl Toko Ekambi. He’s going to start every match on the right of the back three and play every minute and he’s probably going to be really, really goo.. Credit to Daniele Pradè for getting him signed to an extension this year, since the kind of World Cup performance Milenković is set to have is the kind that usually leads to a big money move.
Jović won’t start but will feature prominently off the bench as the third striker, although the starting pairing of Aleksandar Mitrović and (dammit) ex-Viola star Dušan Vlahović will probably get most of the minutes. Jović has had a slightly rocky relationship with the Orlovi over his brief career but could rewrite the narrative with a late goal or two, especially since Dragan Stojković’s men are one of the popular dark horses at the tournament.
Despite winning his first 5 caps over the past year, Aleksa Terzić didn’t make the squad, as Stojković opted for the experience of Legia Warsaw’s Filip Mladenović as the backup to Filip Kostić. Former Viola defender Matija Nastasić also misses out.
Another former Fiorentina striker who joined young and left before making much of an impact features for Nati. Haris Seferović has bounced all over Europe since leaving Tuscany but has reliably been a key cog for various national team managers, earning 88 caps and scoring 25 goals, and he’s the favorite to start as the 9 for another big tournament, although Breel Embolo could pop up in that spot too.
He’ll be joined by Edimilson Fernandes, who’s been quite good since his miserable season with Fiorentina. Now at Mainz, Edi’s had a strange career, experiencing a resurgence as a central defender before moving back into midfield over the past couple of years. He probably won’t feature much here, as he’s firmly behind Granit Xhaka, Remo Freuler, Djibril Sow, Denis Zakaria, and Michel Aebischer, but it’s impressive that he’s even in the squad, given how bad he looked in Florence.
It’s not a surprise, since the player himself sees to have retired from international duty in order to focus on his club career, but Alfred Duncan won’t feature for Ghana. It’s too bad, since he’d likely be, at worst, a rotational option in midfield for the Black Stars, but it’s another reminder that the dude is a rock for the Viola.
The team with the biggest Fiorentina footprint at the tournament is Uruguay, featuring three distinguished Viola alumni in Matías Vecino, Martín Cáceres, and Lucas Torreira. All three will likely start for la Celeste, based both on pure talent and on attitude: that’s about as tough and gritty a trio as you’ll find, and they exemplify the garra charrua that’s been Uruguay’s calling card for decades.