In an end to the worst-kept secret of this mercato, Nikola Kalinić has finally packed up his bags and moved to AC Milan, who have sent €25 million the other way; there could be another €5 million-ish if he hits certain performance incentives. We’ve been waiting on the announcement for a couple of months now, so it feels like a pretty serious anticlimax.
Kalinić arrived in Florence for €5.5 million from Dnipro in 2015, and our collective reaction was a resounding shrug. He’d had an okay if unremarkable run with the Ukrainian outfit, notching 49 goals in 125 appearances, which helped restore a reputation in shambles after his unimpressive spell at Blackburn. All he needed, though, was a better team around him, as he exploded out the gate, scoring 10 league goals before Christmas, including a hat-trick and utter demolition of Inter Milan. He looked like the real deal, the sort of player capable of challenging for capocanniere for another several years.
Then he cooled off in a big way, scoring just 2 more the rest of the way. He was better last year, scoring 20 in 42 appearances, but his streakiness kept him from ever looking like a world-beater again and, more than his ability to hold up the ball, his clever movement, or his sometimes acrobatic finishing, that streakiness became his calling card. After a public flirtation with Chinese outfit Tianjin Quanjian in January, it began to look like he’d be leaving this summer, and Vincenzo Montella’s Milan ended up as the frontrunners.
We should be a lot more upset to see a 20-goal striker leaving, but Nikola’s heart is clearly not in Florence anymore; he’s gone AWOL from training for the past day or two, leading the club to fine him, and his number 9 shirt’s been taken by newcomer Giovanni Simeone. He’ll finish his Fiorentina career with 33 goals and 11 assists in 84 appearances, good for 22nd all time in the purple shirt.
It’s also tough to see how much space he’ll get with the Rossoneri, as their very public failed pursuits of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Diego Costa, Álvaro Morata, and pretty much any other striker worth a lot of money makes him seem like the sort of date you call 10 minutes before the dance after striking out with everyone else. He’ll also have to compete with new acquisition of André Silva, who scored a brace in his debut against Shkëndija, as well as promising youngster Patrick Cutrone and, er, Fabio Borini.
So farewell, Slender Man. You gave us some wonderful moments. We’ll miss the brilliant holdup play, the clever flicks and wonderful runs, the odd spectacular goal. We won’t miss the frequently wayward finishing, but we’re probably not going to see that when he plays Fiorentina; he’ll probably score a brace to frustrate us all just one more time, for nostalgia’s sake.