It’s become more and more apparent as the season drags on that Pantaleo Corvino’s biggest mistake this summer was his failure to replace Milan Badelj. Fiorentina have been completely overrun in midfield, as Jordan Veretout’s move to the holding role has largely backfired. While the Frenchman has been game as a terrier back there, he lacks the ball-winning ability to screen the defense, and the team misses his passing higher up the pitch, where Marco Benassi, Gerson, and Edimilson Fernandes have all fallen well short in that department. The obvious solution is to find a new holding midfielder, or perhaps to return to a previous target.
It’s no great surprise, then, that the Crow has reopened his pursuit of Genk and Norway midfielder Sander Berge. He had the hulking midfielder in his sights this summer, but the Smurfs (no, that’s seriously their nickname) felt that the €12 million offer was about €5 million short and politely declined to do business.
However, that was before Stefano Pioli’s charges completely lost their shape in the middle. Following a knee injury that cost him 3 matches last month, Corvino may be hoping that the price tag’s decreased a bit, although it’s not like Genk need to sell, as they’ve got the player under contract until 2021. However, a lot of outlets in both Italy and Belgium have reported that the Viola are very keen indeed and could make another attempt in January. That said, Berge’s also reportedly caught the interest of everyone from Barcelona to Arsenal, so he may be well out of the Della Valles’ price range now.
It’s too bad, because he looks like exactly what Fiorentina need: a big, physical presence to screen the defense, win the ball, and move it forward with a minimum of fuss. Our previous scouting report of him still holds true:
If that sounds like the perfect foil to Veretout and Benassi/Gerson/Fernandes/whoever in the middle, well, yeah. You’re not wrong. Again, he’s only 20 years old, so it’s not like he’s a perfect player. His defensive positioning and his habit of trying to dribble out of pressure when no passing option is present are both issues he could work on, but he’s got the potential to be an absolute monster in the mold of Nemanja Matić (the good version from a few years ago, not the current husk).
As Fiorentina’s European hopes begin slipping away, it’s going to take something drastic to reverse the team’s fortunes. Firing a manager, particularly one who seems as popular with the players as Pioli, could be the wrong choice in the middle of the season, so the best hope is probably a coup in the winter mercato. We don’t expect to see another top striker sign on—think someone on Diego Falcinelli’s level—so that leaves the midfield as the area most in need of improvement. Sander Berge would doubtless provide that, although it’s tough to see how the finances would work.