It’s hardly a secret that Fiorentina has a bit of an issue at striker. Last year’s Luka Jović experiment didn’t entirely fail but barely earned a passing mark, and he may be on his way to Turkey as a result. Arthur Cabral had a sizzling couple of months but wasn’t as consistent as Vincenzo Italiano might have wanted. The most natural thing, then, is for the Viola to look at strikers, and who better than Boulaye Dia, who scored a hat trick against them in May?
The sticking point is his transfer clause. Salernitana only officially bought him on the first day of July and the word from ViolaNews is that DS Morgan de Sanctis inserted a €25 million clause into Dia’s 4-year contract that expires later this month. AC Milan are also in contact with him, so it’s a bit troubling that Daniele Pradè and Joe Barone have reportedly been trying to low-ball the Granata for his services, tendering offers of €18 million and €20 million plus bonuses. There’s also speculation that they could try to use Jonathan Ikoné or Riccardo Sottil to tempt de Sanctis into greenlighting the move.
The 26-year-old Senegal international was superb for the Granata last year, scoring 16 goals (3rd in the league) and adding 6 assists (12th) for a total of 22 goal contributions (4th). That means that he was directly involved in 22 of his team’s 46 goals on the season, coming out to 48%, which was by far the highest rate in Serie A (for comparison’s sake, nobody for Fiorentina was above 18%). He was perhaps the most impressive forward in Italy this year by fbref’s numbers.
This wasn’t a fluke, either, as he’s been productive at the top level previously. While he only notched 5 for Villarreal in 2021-2022, it was mostly because he struggled with a knee injury all year. Before that, he had 14 for an offensively-challenged Reims in Ligue 1. He’s also been good for Senegal, scoring 5 in 25 appearances; 4 of those have come in his past 8 caps, when he took over as the full-time number 9 for the Lions of Teranga.
That he even wound up in Salerno still feels fluky. Villarreal cut bait on him last year, sending him on loan to Salernitana with a fee of just €12 million to cover their own financial issues. With a French passport, he won’t take up a non-EU spot, and his agent Vadim Vasilyev also has connections to Serie A and to Fiorentina specifically, as he also ex-Viola midfielder represents Jordan Veretout.
As a player, Dia’s a handful. He’s very quick and, despite a smaller frame, sturdy enough to hold up the ball and combine with teammates; that ability to both drop deep and sprint in behind makes him very difficult to play against. He’s quite two-footed, scoring 9 with his right and 7 with his left last year, and his movement through the channels is really good. His movement on crosses is clever as well, but he’s mostly just a very predatory center forward: he’s got a knack for popping up to punish even the smallest mistake at the back, as Nikola Milenković and Igor know all too well.
He’s not a perfect player, of course, because nobody is. He’s not good in the air and there are questions about his passing and defensive work, although the latter are probably more based on the reactive, counterattacking system he was in than anything else. Unlike some previous purchases—Abdelhamid Sabiri, Josip Brekalo—this doesn’t feel like a case of the Viola brass being wowed by a strong performance against Fiorentina. This feels like a smart purchase if Pradè and company can get it over the line.