In a just and correct world, Fiorentina would currently be preparing not only for Serie A, but also for a second Europa League playoff tie. Instead, we live in a hellscape ruled by money and regulations that change depending on which hedge fund owns you, so the Viola have nothing but the league to plan for. While missing out on Europe is a huge loss in terms of money and prestige, it’s also going to have some major repercussions for a squad that’s now way too large for just two competitions.
With 30 players currently on the senior roster, as well as nearly a dozen more floating around the periphery, Fiorentina are set to pay significant money to guys who won’t do anything more than show up to training. When you consider how many times the Gigliati have ended up missing out on a transfer target due to his wages, you can see how that’s a serious problem. With a raft of new arrivals and very few departures, this roster is bloated in a way that will cost a lot of money. And that’s not taking into account the potential for discord as too many players jockey for too little playing time.
Pantaleo Corvino and Stefano Pioli know all of this, obviously. The latter has been pretty open about who’s in and who’s out with regard to his squad selections for the friendlies. The former is probably waiting until the very end of the mercato—when teams get desperate and pay top dollar—before cashing in on his superfluous assets. It’s a difficult balancing act, though: waiting too long means that if talks break down, the team has to pay the wages for a guy who knows he’s unwanted. So, let’s take a look at the likeliest departures.
We love the Cheese. He’s elegant and intelligent and was a major factor in last season’s record-tying win streak. Fiorentina don’t have anyone else who can find space between the lines and get the ball forward like he can.
But Pioli has stated that 4-3-3 is the formation we’ll see this year, and that leaves Saponara, a classic trequartista, out in the cold. Too slow for the wing and not robust enough for the midfield, the 26-year-old is perhaps the most obvious candidate for a departure. We’ve heard whispers that Parma, Sampdoria, and Cagliari are after him, but there hasn’t been anything substantive. Corvino will certainly want to turn a profit on the €9 million the club paid Empoli for the player, but he’ll be just as eager to get Ricky’s €1.1 million wage off the books.
The 35-year-old Frenchman is an anomaly on this Viola squad due to his age; after him, the next oldest player is 30-year-old Kevin Mirallas, then a trio of 26-year-olds. While Cyril had an extraordinary start to last season, eventually his age kicked in and he wound up consigned to bench duty. When you can’t beat Gil Dias out for a role, you’re probably not long for this team. That’s why a host of lower-level Serie A clubs—SPAL is the most recent, but Parma might be an option too—have been linked with him over the past few months. Théréau has been locked out of the squad for friendlies in Germany and the Netherlands, so it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he and his €700,000 salary are on the way out, even if Corvino can’t actually make much money off the sale.
The 26-year-old Frenchman never really got a shot with Fiorentina, as he suffered an injury to open the season and couldn’t recapture his form until late. He had a few decent moments, but also some very anonymous ones. But with the arrivals of Mirallas and Marko Pjaca (and maybe Gerson?), it’s hard to see a reason to keep him and his €700,000 wage around as the fourth-string winger, especially with Riccardo Sottil (or Tòfol Montiel, if he gets called up from the Primavera) available for a fraction of the cost. We’ve been hearing that a raft of clubs, back in France are interested in him (most notably Marseille), but Corvino seems to want roughly double the cut-rate €3.5 million Fiorentina paid for him last year, which has balked all potential suitors. Eysseric is hardly a useless player and would be perfect for the Coppa or the Europa League or as a spot-starter against bottom-half teams, but he looks like the odd winger out in the current circumstances.
Bartłomiej Drągowski has endured two turbulent years in Florence, resulting in pretty much no playing time, and his development seems to have stalled. His agent may be looking for a move this summer, although he’s been very polite about it and hasn’t resorted to flinging mud. But Corvino probably wants to keep him on the books because 1) he’s a young player with oodles of talent and 2) Alban Lafont is the only other goalkeeper on the roster. If a veteran netminder arrives, though, we’re pretty sure that the Dragon will be out the door shortly after.
It’s a near certainty that at least two of Vincent Laurini, Kevin Diks, and Lorenzo Venuti will move on this summer. Pioli favors Nikola Milenković as an unconventional rightback (and we favor getting him as much playing time as possible), so there’s no reason to keep all three as backups. Laurini has garnered some interest from Spain, while Venuti was linked to Genoa for a bit, but nothing concrete has emerged as of yet.
On the other side of the defense, Maxi Olivera has also been tapped for a return to old club Peñarol, although Celta Vigo have emerged as suitors as well. However, that would leave the cupboard mighty bare behind starter Cristiano Biraghi; only 20-year-old David Hancko, who just arrived in Florence this summer, would be the backup, and despite what Transfermarkt would have you believe, he’s not really a leftback so much as a centerback who’s good enough on the ball to push out wide during the preseason. Biraghi has become one of the side’s most important contributors, so a lack of depth behind him is a grave concern. Selling Olivera wouldn’t help that, although his €500,000 wage is a bit of a drain for a guy who rarely plays.
With Dušan Vlahović seemingly entrenched as the backup to Giovanni Simeone, 19-year-old striker Martin Graiciar could be deemed surplus to requirements as well. However, he’s an enormously promising player in his own right and has a very low wage, so he’s a strong candidate for a loan.
We’d say that Sebastian Cristoforo seems redundant in a central midfield featuring Jordan Veretout, Marco Benassi, Bryan Dabo, Gerson, Christian Nørgaard, and Edimilson Fernandes, but we know that’s not the case.
The three moves above, plus some of the possible ones listed later, could trim the squad down to a more manageable 25ish as well as save a few million in wages. While we’d miss most of these guys quite a bit, it’s in everyone’s best interest to move on. But if we’ve learned anything about Corvino, it’s that you can never predict what he’s going to do, which means that probably every one of these players will still be on the team come September.