Nikola Kalinić was enjoying a reasonably successful career when Fiorentina signed him from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk for €5.5 million in 2015. He’d played for Hajduk Split, one of the biggest clubs in his home country of Croatia, and spent a couple of (undistinguished) in the English Premier League with Blackburn, and even spent some time in the Champions League. But he was definitely considered a rather anonymous journeyman striker.
Until he joined Fiorentina.
Without a doubt, the Slender Man was the most pleasant surprise of the first half of the 2015 Serie A season, dueling Gonzalo Higuaín for caponcannoniere and generally looking like the sort of world-class poacher that Viola fans hadn’t seen since the halcyon days of Alberto Gilardino.
Even when he cooled off, Kalinić remained a classy striker; his finishing was (and is) rather uneven, but his off-ball movement is wonderful, and his holdup play is top notch. He’s tucked away 26 goals in his time in Florence and would certainly have more if his supporting cast were a bit more consistent. Thus, it’s hardly a surprise that a host of clubs, from Napoli to Tianjin Quanjian, have ardently pursued his signature.
Nikola has, though, turned away all of his suitors, reaffirming his love of Fiorentina, but particularly speaking of his desire to stick with Paulo Sousa, whom he credits for his late and unexpected rise in the hierarchy of world football. So with the Portuguese mister on the outs in Florence, one has to wonder if his protegee will follow; indeed, Kalinić himself has said that he’ll follow Sousa to whatever end.
Given Borussia Dortmund’s naked interest in bringing their former star on board to replace the embattled Thomas Tuchel, it’s not exactly shocking that Kalinić has become a target for the killer bees as well. He’d certainly command a hefty price on the transfer market, and Khouma Babacar looks every inch the ready-made replacement, so shipping the star man off to Germany may be a good bit of business.
Of course, losing one’s productive and occasionally game-changing number nine is not something to be taken lightly. But, given the rather odd circumstances at play, it may be in everyone’s best interests to allow Kalinić to follow Sousa to Dortmund or wherever else, because it’s not easy to get top dollar for a 29-year-old striker who’s just recently come into his own. But then again, the prospect of Nikola playing in front of an attacking band of Federico Bernardeschi, Riccardo Saponara, and Federico Chiesa is positively mouthwatering. Pantaleo Corvino will have some tough calls to make this summer.