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Fiorentina’s winter mercato is going to be very, very complicated

Did you think that a 6-week break in the season would mean you didn’t have to worry about the Viola? Oh, you sweet summer child. You must always be afraid.

Serie A Fixture Unveiling Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images for Lega Serie A

With Fiorentina finished until 2023, aside from some meaningless friendlies, there isn’t much to write about on the Viola front. Because the discourse abhors a vacuum, the natural filler is transfer rumors., the natural filler is transfer rumors. While I usually don’t really like writing about them, I am particularly interested in how this mercato is going to look for Fiorentina, largely because there are a lot of really weird things going into it. What weird things? Well, let’s lay them out for everyone to enjoy.

A bloated roster

One of the joys (?) of being a Fiorentina fan is looking at the roster and approaching an aneurysm. For the past half decade, it feels like, there are always at least two and possibly more first team players who simply don’t belong: they don’t want to be in Florence, the coach doesn’t want them in Florence, and the fans don’t want them in Florence. They’re only around because management was unable to find them a move.

Let’s remember some of those names, shall we? In 2018-2019, it was Maxi Olivera, Sebastian Cristoforo (sorry, buddy), and Cyril Thereau. In 2019-2020, it was Olivera and Thereau. In 2020-2021, it was Aleksandr Kokorin and Valentin Eysseric. Last year, it was Kokorin and Matija Nastasić. This year, it’s Luca Ranieri, Marco Benassi, and Szymon Źurkowski.

I’m not saying that these players aren’t good. I’m not saying that they’re problematic characters (except for Kokorin and Thereau, who are both problematic characters). What I’m saying is that none of these guys were even remotely in the club’s plans and featured only in moments of crisis prompted by injuries or incompetence above them on the depth chart. They’re essentially here to serve as warm bodies in training, but their presence limits the team’s flexibility in building the roster.

I’m not trying to pillory Joe Barone and/or Daniele Pradè for poor purchases. Every club buys the wrong players sometimes, and it’s a lot easier to pass judgement with the benefit of hindsight. The issue at hand here is that Fiorentina has no space in its squad to register new players right now. Indeed, the roster is so crowded that Benassi and the injured Gaetano Castrovilli isn’t on the Serie A squad list.

Now that Tanino’s healthy and training again, he’ll need a spot on the roster. The problem, of course, is that there isn’t one available for him. All 25 slots are occupied, and one of them will need to be vacated to get the Viola 10 on the field for Serie A fixtures. The knock-on effect is that one of Żurkowski and Ranieri—both obviously rejected by Vincenzo Italiano—will be removed from the list and stuck in purgatory alongside Benassi.

The overall mercato

That’s not the only problem, though, because Fiorentina’s roster still isn’t complete. The lack of a fourth central defender has already stung this team, forcing Sofyan Amrabat to drop back a couple of times, while neither Aleksa Terzić nor Lorenzo Venuti has been consistent enough as a reserve fullback. Too, Rolando Mandragora doesn’t look anything like an adequate replacement for Amrabat.

In short, Fiorentina probably needs at least three more players in January, and that’s going to be tough to wrangle. With a compressed schedule having already taken its toll on a number of players—take a look at how many stars are injured for the World Cup—you have to think that the tournament itself is going to knock out a bunch more; Nicolás González may be the first victim, but he won’t be the last.

All those injuries are going to result in the teams those soon-to-be-injured international players needing to plug those holes. Since those players tend to be very good and thus play for very good teams, and since very good teams tend to have a fair amount of money, those teams will be active in finding replacements, leading to a particularly busy January transfer window, especially since the more compulsive organizations won’t be able to resist a star coming off a good World Cup performance.

The World Cup injuries have already stung Nico and Fiorentina, but the indirect effects could be considerable as well. As more big teams hoover up good players, the ability of smaller teams (i.e. the Viola) to bring in adequate reinforcements will be diminished through the forces of the invisible hand, which, just as Adam Smith predicted, will flip Fiorentina an invisible bird.

So now what?

Well, that’s the eight billion lira question, isn’t it? Fiorentina need to buy players to continue competing on three fronts, but buying players is going to be really hard in an unprecedented and chaotic transfer window. It’s not just a matter of identifying targets and getting them, though, because Pradè and Barone need to shuffle someone off the roster just to get Castrovilli on the bus, much less add any new faces.

I don’t doubt that the brain trust is already trying to find landing spots for Benassi, Ranieri, and Żurkowski, although benching them has made it impossible to recoup much, if any value, on any of them. Sending Pierluigi Gollini back to Atalanta would free a spot for Castrovilli as well, and there’ve been rumblings about Maleh being on the outs as well. In short, there are plenty of guys who can make room.

If nothing else, it’s a good reminder of how complex the player market is. I’d expect that nobody reading this has the background in calcio, economics, business, marketing, and soft skills to do this job better than the folks who are in there right now. Pradè’s been doing this for decades and he’s still managed to get himself in this knot; it’s a difficult job even for old heads.

Still, Fiorentina need to sell and sell soon. It’s hard not to see this current situation as the result of some poor long-term planning, and one that will continue to be a problem. It feels like a symptom of a club that doesn’t have a long-term and instead just swims along with its mouth open, inhaling any player who happens to move into its path, sort of like a whale shark, which is cool but not an effective way to run a club.

The fact that this state of affairs has been constant is the real concern, and it’s not going to change any time soon. Fiorentina doesn’t currently have any players with expiring contracts, so we’ll see this same crunch over the summer, especially with 18 senior players returning from loan. It’s going to be another scramble to get guys out the door, rather than merely scrambling to get them in. That strikes me as pretty bad.