One relatively minor but still significant irritation of this incomprehensibly stupid World Cup is that writers on the Fiorentina beat now have to spend a month drumming up interest in a club that’s not playing. With the January transfer window set to open just two weeks after the final, expect a flurry of transfer rumors to descend on us like snow blanketing the Piazzale Michelangelo. Look, here comes the first flake: it’s Abdelhamid Sabiri.
After breaking through at Nürnburg in the 2. Bündesliga back in 2017, the Morocco international moved to Huddersfield in the Premier League, spending a couple of seasons mostly wilting on the bench before returning to Germany with Paderborn for a year. A move to Ascoli in 2020 revitalized his career, as he scored 8 goals with i Picchi that year, and added 3 more before Sampdoria snapped him up for a bargain bin €1 million in January of last year; it took him a few weeks to find his feet in Genoa, but he soon became one of the first names on the team sheet.
At his best, the 25-year-old offers an interesting combination physical and technical ability, mixed with a little bit of fire. He can be a spiky, uncomfortable character to go up against, which goes against the usual interpretation of a number 10. He’s primarily known for his long range finishing: of his 4 Serie A goals, 3 have come from outside the box, and his average distance from goal per shot this year is a full 25 yards. From set pieces and from open play, he’s never seen a chance that he doesn’t want to put on target.
Besides that excellent right peg, he’s got quick feet on the ball and an eye for the killer pass, as you’d expect from any attacking midfielder, but his real utility is more defensive. That spiky personality manifests itself in furious pressing up the pitch—he’s in the 99th percentile among attacking midfielders for final third tackles—and he’s got a good motor, constantly getting up and down the field. Between his ability to shoot from distance and his work without the ball, he looks like a perfect Vincenzo Italiano player.
The question is where he’d fit at Fiorentina. Giacomo Bonaventura and Antonín Barák have both adapted fantastically well to the 10 role in Italiano’s newly-revamped midfield, and Sabiri probably isn’t a massive upgrade on either. With Gaetano Castrovilli set to debut in January too, that spot is probably filled. That means that Sabiri would likely feature on the left wing, cutting inside. That would put him up against Christian Kouamé and Riccardo Saponara for minutes, although the eventual return of Riccardo Sottil adds another wrinkle.
While he’s signed through 2025, Sampdoria’s woeful form means that the Ligurians could look to sell him in January for the biggest fee possible, although they may try to keep him on loan for the rest of the season in their bid to avoid relegation. The fee would probably be somewhere around €15 million, pending any knockout performances in the the World Cup (and if that happens, he’ll likely have nobody to thank more than Sofyan Amrabat for letting him shine).
So, let’s sum this up: Sabiri is relatively young and his career trajectory seems to be firmly pointing upwards. He’s got 2 Morocco caps and scored his first goal for them in a friendly against Chile a couple months ago. He’s established himself as an important player at Samp, despite the Blucerchiati struggles this year. Even so, he looks a bit redundant in a Fiorentina side that boasts both talent and depth at his usual spots. In short, this is a tough one to figure.