It’s never a good thing when a player’s agent and his sporting director decide to use the media to snipe at each other, but that’s what’s happening with Rodrigo de Paul right now. The Udinese forward and maybe Fiorentina target is at the center of a war of words between his representative Bruno Conti and Zebretti DS Daniele Pradè; you may recall that the latter masterminded the transfer strategy for the Vincenzo Montella years in Florence. Anyways, the two are at loggerheads about Fiorentina’s approach (or lack thereof) for the Argentine and have been airing laundry for the several hours.
The point of contention is de Paul’s stated desire to leave. Conti has claimed that Udinese gave his client assurances that last year would be his final one in Friuli, and that Pradè broke that promise by rejecting a Viola offer of €10 million—the sum that he said would be enough to trigger a sale—and is now acting as if there was never any agreement, telling the press, “Udinese increases the player’s price by a million every week. We agreed on €10 million, and today we find out that it’s increased to 15 million euros.” About Fiorentina, he added, “It’s the ideal solution for him, a fantastic spot where, as I’ve said in the past, many Argentines like Rodrigo have made history.”
So that’s that, right? Udinese have changed their mind and are desperate to hang onto one of their top assets. Pradè, however, provided a withering response: “I only know of one Bruno Conti in the world and I don’t even know that much about what he does, but this Bruno Conti says untrue things.” He continued, “We have not promised anything to anyone...it is false that Udinese have ‘raised the price by a million every time’ simply because we never got a request, and the last contact with Fiorentina dates back 20 days,” and wrapped up his statement with, “I clarify this: the player is not on the market, and I recommend to him that he should be publicly represented in a more appropriate manner.”
Conti adopted a somewhat more conciliatory tone in his rejoinder to Pradè’s comment, stating, “If the club were to withdraw this same Rodrigo, to whom a promise to leave was made, from the market, we would take note of it while respecting the choice. We’ll talk about it again in June 2019, when the player has 2 years left on his contract,” and followed up with a rather whinging conclusion: “I would like to say that I will try to sleep tonight after my player has been given the advice to be better represented.”
While it’s all a bit teenage soap opera-y, this little anecdote does provide some value for the casual Viola observer. First off, it’s very satisfying to see this kind of saga play out without seeing Fiorentina dribble all over themselves; by simply stepping aside and letting Conti and Pradè go at it, they’ve done a neat job of depressing de Paul’s value (players who are desperate to leave a club are usually discounted to avoid poisoning the dressing room) and leaving their own hands spotless, which is not a state in which we expect to find them most of the time.
It’s also a good look at how player-club relations go. De Paul has 3 years on his contract, so it would seem that Udinese have all the power here. But Conti’s insistence that de Paul was promised an exit muddies the waters a bit. The Friulians probably don’t want to be seen as the kind of club that will hold players against their will because it’s bad business if you’re a club who survives by buying players on the cheap and reselling them for big money. You could draw some similar parallels for a number of Viola players and handshake agreements; sort of makes you wonder what the deal is with Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone, and the other highly-rated youngsters in the Viola setup right now.
But for now, let’s just enjoy somebody else’s mercato struggles right now, even though this is inevitably going to conclude with Atalanta buying Rodrigo de Paul for €10 million in a few weeks.