It’s easy to load up FIFA or FM and sprint through a bunch of transfer deals to completely remake your team. The reality, though, is that getting every party involved in a sale or purchase is extremely difficult. We rip on Daniele Pradè a lot, but the fact is that none of us have the combination of negotiating nous, player knowledge, and institutional familiarity to do even 10% of his job, which involves massively complicated deal-making involving vast sums and extraordinarily self-confident people.
One way to simplify this mess is to avoid buying players outright. Yep, I’m talking about free transfers. A Bosman signing just needs to agree to a contract, removing the need to work with other teams. The downside, of course, is that most players signed on a free get contracts that are anywhere between 25% and 50% higher than they’d otherwise receive, making them more difficult to sell on, but a few smart signings can tip the balance for a team.
Pradè loves a free signing, too. In his first stint at Fiorentina, he snapped up David Pizarro, Marcos Alonso, Ciprian Tătărușanu, Luca Toni, Facundo Roncaglia, Massimo Ambrosini, and Antonio Rosati, among others, on free signings. In his second stint, he’s grabbed Franck Ribery, Giacomo Bonaventura, Martín Cáceres, Pietro Terracciano, Borja Valero, José Callejón, and Rosati (again). The man loves a freebie, even though these aren’t actually entirely free.
My methodology here is to find about 3 players who’d fit the bill for what Fiorentina is likely looking for at the given position. For example, Fiorentina won’t sign Vladimír Coufal at rightback because he’s probably looking for a starting job in a big league. I also ignored guys whose salaries are way too high or who are obvious stylistic misfits. I also prioritized players who have some familiarity with Serie A and have EU passports.
Although Pierluigi Gollini and Salvatore Sirigu both failed to make an impact, Fiorentina is clearly looking for someone to replace or at least challenge Terraciano between the sticks. Because goalkeepers are often undervalued in the transfer market, this is a position that paying full price for makes sense. There aren’t a lot of players with the requisite skill-set (shot-stopping, sweeping, passing out the back) and wage demands available and I’d be surprised to see the Viola dip into this group for anything more than a third keeper.
I’ve already written about Fiorentina’s centerbacks, so I won’t go into depth here. But with Igor looking more and more likely to move to Fulham, there’s an obvious need for a 4th central defender unless Dimo Krastev is ready for a much bigger step than expected.
Yerry Mina, 28, Everton: The Colombia international has the pace to play Vincenzo Italiano’s high line and would add another superb target at set pieces. The problems are his injury history—he’s missed 31 games over the past 2 seasons—and his wage—about €7.3 million. He’s got offers from South America but, if he’s fit and willing to take a pay cut, could be a very good signing, although he would occupy a non-EU spot on the roster.
Danilo D’Ambrosio, 34, Inter Milan: The Fiorentina academy graduate could return if he’s willing to accept a backup role and is able to play in the center of a back 4; as a converted rightback, it’s a role he’s rarely played given Inter’s consistent use of a back 3. Monza’s reportedly interested, but the Viola would represent a more ambitious destination.
Shkodran Mustafi, 31, Levante: He’s mostly an Arsenal meme these days, but Mustafi’s probably got something left to offer. He missed most of the year with various muscle injuries, but he’s a low-risk gamble who could pay dividends, given his experience playing in a high line and his familiarity with Serie A from his time at Sampdoria.
Cristiano Biraghi isn’t getting replaced as the starter, so finding a backup if the club moves on from Aleksa Terzić (a distinct possibility) should be the priority. That means either a grizzled veteran or a youngster to groom behind the captain.
Faouzi Ghoulam, 32, Angers: The longtime Napoli star might jump at a chance to return to Serie A. After he missed most of last year with injuries, he may be ready to settle in as a rotational option during the back nine of his career. The downside, of course, is that he’s a Jorge Mendes client, and it could be tough to convince that guy to do business in Florence.
Daam Foulon, 24, Benevento: The Belgian is a former Next Big Thing whose career has stalled a bit, but he looks like the kind of player who could impersonate Biraghi pretty well and maybe get back on track in a year or two.
Valentín Rodríguez, 22, Peñarol: The Uruguayan may be ready for the jump to Europe, although he’ll think long and hard about whether he wants to join a smaller side where he could start or ride the bench for a Fiorentina-sized team. He’d also be able to rely on Peñarol superfan and ex-Viola leftback Maxi Oliveira for advice.
Much like Biraghi, Dodô is firmly entrenched as the starter at rightback. With Lorenzo Venuti’s contract not renewed, though, there’s space behind him, although Niccolò Pierozzi’s excellent year on loan at Reggina could hand him the inside track for the job. If not, here are some older or younger options to serve as backups.
Gastón Martirena, 23, Liverpool: Not that Liverpool. The one in Uruguay. He’s quick and loves to get forward, exemplified by a brace in his most recent outing. That kind of off-ball work is very different to what Dodô offers, but the relatively unheralded Martirena looks like the sort of player Italiano would love to work with.
El doblete de Gaston Martirena frente a Cerro Largo.— Seba Esquerre (@SebaEsquerre) June 17, 2023
Transiciones al ataque, cambios de orientacion y tercer hombre, partiendo desde 2da linea. Muy buena pegada.pic.twitter.com/ecTawC3npv
Giulio Donati, 33, Monza: Capable of playing anywhere across the back line, he’d offer more defensive solidity but considerably less dynamism in attack. He also nearly joined Fiorentina 9 years ago, so this could be a real closing of the Ondrej Duda loop.
Sofyan Amrabat’s impending departure means this is a red alert situation. I’d expect Fiorentina to spend decent money to replace him. With Alfred Duncan also a candidate to leave and Alessandro Bianco probably not ready for a big role, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if Pradè kicked the tires on a veteran to add to the mix as well.
Ellyes Skhiri, 28, Köln: The Tunisian had a superb season and has reportedly been offered to AS Roma, but he could be a perfect fill-in for Amrabat. He lacks the Moroccan’s wrecking-ball quality but never stops running and may offer a bit more in possession as well. We also wrote about him more than 7 years ago as a potential transfer target, which is fun.
Florian Grillitsch, 27, Ajax: He was a target last year and, following an underwhelming campaign at Ajax, looks to be on the move again. Hoffenheim are supposedly interested in bringing him back, but the Austria international could see Fiorentina as a more interesting option so long as his father doesn’t ask for a massive bonus again.
Nampalys Mendy, 30, Leicester City: The Senegal international couldn’t keep the Foxes up and had trouble breaking into the team at times, but he could add some bite to the engine room. Unlike the previous two options, he’d probably be better suited as a backup, but his energy and ball-winning would be useful tools for Italiano. Plus, he does this every once in a while.
What a hit this is from Nampalys Mendy. Bloody hell.— HLTCO (@HLTCO) February 12, 2023
Duccio Degli Innocenti, 20, Empoli: Definitely not ready to start and maybe not even ready for the first team, but he looks like a really good young player who was with the Italy U20s on their run to the World Cup final. Comfortable as a regista or further forward, he could be one to grab and loan out for a year or two with an eye to the future, as he looks like a long-time Serie A pro.
Like the goalkeepers, I’m ignoring this spot. Fiorentina already have Giacomo Bonaventura and Antonín Barák—whom management rates highly enough to have paid his option 3 months early—with Abdelhamid Sabiri incoming from Sampdoria. Gaetano Castrovilli, while now more of a box-to-box midfielder, is more than capable of doing the job as well. There’s no reason to sink more resources into this spot.
If Fiorentina miss out on Domenico Berardi and the other interesting options, we could see some movement here, although Pradè would likely have to sell another winger first. Nicolás González is untouchable, but Jonathan Ikoné, Riccardo Sottil, Christian Kouamé, and Josip Brekalo have created a logjam, even with Riccardo Saponara moving on. If at least one of them moves on, though, there could be room for another winger. It might be wise to grab a youngster, too, who can spend a year or two developing before becoming a first-team regular.
Jonathan Bamba, 27, Lille: He joined Lille in 2018 along with Ikoné and has impressed even more. He’s very quick and considerably more direct than Chaos Jonny, as evidenced by 6 goals and 7 assists in Ligue 1 last season. He’s likely to have a lot of suitors offering European competition, but there’s a chance that the Viola take a swing and connect.
Luka Romero, 18, Lazio: The Argentine is already heralded as a future star with 2 senior caps but fell out with the Lazio management. AC Milan and Inter Milan are both making eyes at him, but if those deals don’t work out, Fiorentina could be right there to pick up the pieces on a long-term replacement for González.
Nikola Jojić, 19, Mladost: The Serbia youth international has been turning heads for the past couple years and is ready for bigger challenge. He’s quick, decisive, and creative, a left-footed right winger who likes to cut in, which is a bit redundant with the current wingers, although he’d likely need a year or two to settle into calcio and would be a good candidate for a loan.
I’m going to write more about this in the coming days, but Fiorentina’s center forward situation is really weird. Neither Arthur Cabral nor Luka Jović definitively proved to be the guy, but the club’s probably not ready to move on from either unless there’s a massive upgrade available.
Alfredo Morelos, 26, Rangers: The Colombian has caught Fiorentina’s eye before but the deal didn’t get done, and he desperately needs a fresh start after seeming to lose motivation at times this year. He’s a tireless pit bull of a striker who looks a nightmare to play against. His physicality, off-ball work, and consistent finishing—5 straight years in double figures for the league—mean that, if he’s fully engaged, he could be a perfect fit.
Mattia Destro, 32, Empoli: If the plan is to just grab a rotational striker, Destro could be quite useful. He’s never been the most prolific and only scored once last season (which may be more on Empoli’s anemic attack), but he’s the sort of cagey veteran who could sporadically help the team with his athleticism and work rate, and he’s only a year removed from scoring 11 with Bologna.
Stevan Jovetić, 33, Hertha Berlin: We know that the Viola management loves bringing back former favorites—Borja Valero, Milan Badelj Matija Nastasić, Antonio Rosati—and this one could fit. Jojo would offer a change of pace from Cabral and Jović, and he had 4 goals and 2 assists in 886 Bundesliga minutes for a wretched Hertha attack last year. He’d need to accept a smaller role in Florence and pass some extensive medical tests, given his injury history, but it’d be a nice, circular narrative.