Even though we’d heard rumbles for a month or two that it might happen, it’s still surprising to see that Marco Sportiello will return to Atalanta after Fiorentina opted not to pay the €6 million fee to make him a Viola player permanently. Sportiello had spent 18 months in Florence and was the unquestioned starter this past season. The move leaves Bartłomiej Drągowski, himself hardly a certainty to stick on the roster, as the only goalkeeper who’s played with the senior side.
While Corvino probably has a long-term plan in place (Michele Cerofolini, maybe?), it’s hard to figure this one out. Sportiello had his bad moments, yeah, especially when facing free kicks: the Olimpico he let in against Bologna, dead ball strikes from Federico Bernardeschi and Hakan Çalhanoğlu against Juventus and AC Milan, some awfully dicy distribution that seemed to get worse as the season wore on. But he also produced some truly world-class efforts, highlighted by his unbelievable performance against AS Roma.
This is almost certainly a financially-motivated decision rather than a football one. Fiorentina has a lot of fees (up to €30 million) due for player purchases—one of the features of picking guys up on loan with an obligatory fee—so management clearly judged that the likes of Germán Pezzella, Simone Lo Faso, and Dušan Vlahović were higher priorities. It’s a shame, but such are the facts of life at a club that isn’t numbered among the mega-rich.
He just turned 26, so Sporty shouldn’t lack for suitors. He’s rather burned his bridges in Bergamo, so expect him to wind up somewhere else by the start of next season. It’s perhaps unsurprisingly in light of how he stonewalled them earlier this year that Roma are said to be interested in snapping him up in case Alisson Becker leaves, but there’ve been a number of Italian clubs who’ve expressed interest, including Napoli.
The media has wasted no time in mooting candidates for the Viola net, with Łukasz Skorupski (Roma again) and Antonio Mirante of Bologna as the most likely-sounding candidates at the moment, but trying to guess which direction Pantaleo is going to jump is a fool’s errand until he’s actually landed. Instead, we’ll focus on saying farewell to Marco Sportiello, who had some blisteringly good matches in a Fiorentina shirt, and wish him nothing but the best.