One of the problems with using the 4-2-3-1 formation that Stefano Pioli espouses is that it requires some wingers, and Fiorentina don’t really have very many of those. Federico Bernardeschi is leaving. Ante Rebić is more of a striker. Ianis Hagi, Joshua Pérez, Riccardo Sottil, and Jaime Báez probably aren’t ready for a full-time Serie A gig yet. That leaves Federico Chiesa as the only established option out wide. Finding wide men is priority number one for the summer.
Enter Rafik Zekhnini. The 19-year-old Norwegian has spent his entire career at Odds BK, but he’s already been tapped for bigger things, despite only breaking into the senior team this past spring. He started 7 of the final 12 matches in the season and was subbed on in 2 others, accruing a goal and an assist.
He looked a lot better than a goal and an assist in 12 matches, though. His calling card is blazing, game-breaking pace, but he’s also a creative and technical dribbler who loves to take on a full back. He generally plays on the left, sometimes cutting inside and sometimes rocketing down the line to cross (he’s quite two-footed), but he can also operate on the right. He’s a smart passer as well and is very unselfish in the area, always looking to tee up a teammate.
Currently with the U21s, he’s been capped by Norway at every youth level, and it sounds like a senior debut could be coming soon. His greatest fame on the world stage, though, comes from then-Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels; after playing Odds in the Europa Leauge qualifying rounds, the German international, when told that the winger was only 17 years old, responded with a fantastic, “What the f***?”
For the reported price of €1.5 million, he’d be a steal. He seems like a perfect Pioli player and could have a similar impact as Felipe Anderson or Keita Baldé Diao did at Lazio under the new mister’s ministrations. While he’s not a perfect prospect—his occasional lapses in concentration lead to really dumb stuff like this—he’s certainly ready for a challenge and could become a supersub in Florence, given the chance. The deal is supposed to be nearing completion, so get ready.