Pretty much everyone who watches Fiorentina knows that the team’s attack is a turbocharged V-8 that’s firing on just one cylinder, and that cylinder is named Federico Chiesa. Giovanni Simeone has been cooler than being cool (ICE COLD) at striker, and with Cyril Théréau frozen out, the only alternative is 18-year-old Dušan Vlahović, who’s scored exactly 1 goal in his senior career (and it was 2 years ago at Partizan Belgrade). The mishmash of wingers opposite Fede have ranged from inexplicably disappointing (Marko Pjaca) to as disappointing as expected (Valentin Eysseric) to maybe he’s just old and bad now (Kevin Mirallas) to oh he’s a baby (Riccardo Sottil). So yeah, reinforcements are required. But Ryan Babel doesn’t really seem like the sort of surefire star this team could use.
This is not to say that the Dutchman doesn’t still have plenty to offer. He’s somehow still just 31 and recently returned for the Oranje after a 5 year absence. He’s also been tearing up the Turkish Süper Lig with Beşiktaş to the tune of 7 goals and an assist in 16 appearances (a goal/assist every 182 minutes), mostly playing from the left wing and occasionally deputizing as a striker. His contract is up at season’s end and it sounds like he wants out of Turkey, so the Black Eagles could let him leave at a discount in January rather than risk losing him for nothing in the summer.
Babel remains an athletic marvel, blessed with a combination of pace, agility, strength, and stamina that maybe a few hundred humans on the planet possess. He’s also a good footballer, the type who knows how to time his movement to excellent effect, and he’s got the skill to break down his man on the dribble. He can also bang in the odd goal from distance if not closed down.
However, his €2.1 million salary represents a big step up for the Viola, especially with a lot of money tied up in paying other wingers; there are probably a host of bottom-half Premier League clubs who could pay him way more. Given the direction Pantaleo Corvino has taken Fiorentina over the past couple of years, it’s not hard to see the club opting to go for a younger and cheaper option. Finally, Babel will want a guarantee of playing time to boost his stock with Ronald Koeman; as one of the most-capped players in the Dutch setup, he can’t afford to let his domestic performances slacken as the Clockwork Orange look to shake off their recent disappointments by turning to a younger generation.
While a move for Babel certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility, it rests well outside the realm of likelihood for all those reasons. Also, Stefano Pioli is already trying to bring out the best of a washed thirty-something winger from the Low Countries; adding another seems very, very redundant. Few teams would turn down peak Babel, but the juice almost certainly isn’t worth the squeeze for an outfit like Fiorentina.