Given the fire-sale nature of the summer mercato for Fiorentina, it’s no surprise to see another legend depart. This time... eh, what’s that? Oh. Legend is maybe a bit strong, then. Anyways, Josip Iličić has been sold to Atalanta for a fee believed to be around €5.5 million, although it could increase if he meets performance bonuses for la Dea.
The man we (maybe not so) affectionately nicknamed Lurch due to his height, gangliness, and general awkwardness joined the Viola from Palermo back in 2013 for €9 million. Even back then, we weren’t quite sure how he’d fit in; he’d earned his reputation for Zamp’s men as a creative number 10, and Vincenzo Montella didn’t seem to have any interest for that kind of player.
Sure enough, Iličić always cut an uncertain figure. He was frequently deployed as a striker, but his refusal to set foot in the box always highlighted his discomfort with leading the line. Under Paulo Sousa, he was frequently stationed at an inside right role, from which he could cut onto his stronger left foot and let fly from distance.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all he ever wanted to do. While he’d summon up the odd missile from distance or delectable free kick, or maybe even a perfect touch to play someone through, he more often ended a promising attack by putting his head down and dribbling into several defenders or shooting way off target or by just letting the ball bounce off his shin and well out of his reach. Over, and over, and over again.
While this was hardly his best season—36 appearances, 6 goals, 5 assists—last season was pretty spectacular for Josip, to the tune of 15 goals and 6 assists in 37 appearances. He’ll finish his Fiorentina career with 138 appearances, 37 goals, 19 assists, and 17 bookings. Given his skill set, he’s certain to score a brace every time the Viola and the Orobici cross paths.
So farewell, Lurch. You always had world-class talent, but couldn’t channel it for more than about 8 seconds at a time.