When we started hearing rumors last week that representatives for Genoa and Juventus had initiated talks about terminating Marko Pjaca’s loan deal at Fiorentina early so that he could try his luck with the Grifoni, we weren’t too surprised; after all, the Croatian winger has been one of the most underwhelming players in Serie A this term, relative to the preseason expectations. Now, however, it sounds like he’s decided to ride it out in Florence and fight for a spot here.
There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, a change of scenery might have been the best thing for Pjaca at this point. He’s only started 8 matches this year and has gone the distance in just one. In the 677 minutes he’s played—spread out across 16 appearances—he’s tallied a goal and an assist; that’s a substantially lighter return than anyone expected from a guy who was supposed to form one of Italy’s most interesting young tridentes along with Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone.
More than that, though, it’s been the way he’s played that’s drawn the ire of so many supporters. Fresh off a couple of cameo appearances for Croatia in the World Cup, his combination of pace, technique, and aggressively direct mindset seemed tailor-made for Stefano Pioli’s Fiorentina. Sure, he’s coming off some major injuries, but it’s not a good sign that he couldn’t consistently beat out Kevin Mirallas, who’s 31 years old and flamed out at Olympiacos last year, or even journeyman Valentin Eysseric. The arrival of Luis Muriel looked like it would be the final nail in the coffin.
On the other hand, though, you have to admire Pjaca’s resolve. He knows that things haven’t gone as planned in Florence. He’s felt the barbs that fans have hurled in his direction. He knows that his performances are well below the levels he wants and has previously achieved. He’s surely upset to be stuck on the bench behind less-heralded options. And yet he’s exhibiting the self-belief to stick it out, honor his initial commitment to the club, and grind his way back into Pioli’s plans. He had an easy out to Genoa, where he’d be pretty well certain to start every week in a much lower-pressure environment, and opted for the loftier path.
Maybe this is the right choice, and a reinvigorated Pjaca will shoulder past Mirallas and Cholito, carving a swathe in the second half of the season and convincing Fiorentina to shell out the €20 million to keep him at season’s end, then spend the next few years growing into a world-class attacker, the natural successor to Ivan Perišić for Croatia, and a Viola legend. Maybe he ends up pushed even farther down the bench and makes just the odd cameo appearance before ghosting back to the Juvenuts, slipping into the footnotes like Marko Marin or Oleksandr Yakovenko as a trivia answer and nothing more. We’ve got half a season left to find out.