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What the heck is up with Mauro Zarate?

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There are all sorts of rumors swirling around the forward’s conspicuous absence, and the story’s only getting weirder.

ACF Fiorentina v US Citta di Palermo - Serie A
Don’t worry, Mauro. We’re even more confused than you are.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

We’ve spent pretty much all year wondering where the heck Mauro Zarate is. Especially when Fiorentina was struggling for goals, the Argentinean’s continued absence made absolutely no sense. After all, this is the sort of player you drop on the field, wait for a moment, and then enjoy the long-range goal he’ll produce with surprising regularity. Instead, though, Paulo Sousa has exiled him to the bench since October, leaving everyone in the dark as to what’s going on.

We’ve previously discussed Maurito’s scary family stuff and remain thrilled that his wife Natalie Weber’s recovery seems to be going as well as it possibly could. After he returned to Argentina to be with her during her treatment, resulting in his missing most of the preseason, it seemed only natural that he’d be eased in at the start of the season. However, he’s played just 56 minutes across 3 substitute appearances in Serie A (he did produce a 2 goal masterclass against Qarabag in his only Europa League showing), and has fallen behind youngsters Federico Chiesa and Josh Perez in the pecking order.

Nobody has known why Sousa has excluded him, so it seemed logical to assume that he might leave in January. Now, though, we’ve got an explanation for his benching. According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Zarate took several unauthorized trips back to Argentina to be with his wife as she recovered, which led to an internal suspension for the striker from the Viola brass. With his ban now lifted, he’s training hard, but can’t find space in Sousa’s plans.

Zarate, though, tells a different story. In a tweet from earlier this week, he denied that he’d returned to Argentina without permission, and, without naming any names, dismissed the “lies” about his conduct.

The player recently met with DS Pantaleo Corvino to discuss his future, but it sounds like the meeting was inconclusive with regards to restoring Zarate to the squad, and a January exit now seems quite likely. However, there’s another hitch: Zarate wants the club to release him from his contract so he can move (maybe to Spain) on a free transfer, while Fiorentina would prefer to sell him and make at least a bit of money.

As we get closer to the window, this smoldering conflict may swell into full-blown conflagration, with each side accusing the other of a breach of contract and/or etiquette. So don’t worry, Viola fans: this club is still capable of souring relationships with prized attackers in new and creative ways.